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The Romantic Piano Concerto

Glazunov & Goedicke: Piano Concertos

Stephen Coombs (piano), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins (conductor)
Label: Hyperion
Recording details: January 1996
Govan Town Hall, Glasgow, Scotland
Produced by Andrew Keener
Release date: August 1996
Total duration: 65 minutes 29 seconds

The disc is the thirteenth volume in the famous Hyperion 'Romantic Piano Concerto' series; it also follows on from Stephen Coombs's four-volume set of Glazunov's music for solo piano, meaning that Coombs has now recorded all of Glazunov's music for piano soloist.

The two piano concertos date from relatively late in the composer's career and are lyrical works, betraying the characteristically lush orchestral textures familiar from Glazunov's symphonies and ballets.

Alexander Goedicke (Medtner's cousin!) wrote his Concertstück earlier than Glazunov's two concertos despite being the younger man. The work was published in 1900 and won the composer the Rubinstein Prize for Composition, bringing him early fame hardly matched by any subsequent successes. The Concertstück is rhapsodic, with much brilliant piano writing and a distinctly Russian flavour to its themes.


‘Sparkling performances … his playing is by turns gloriously extrovert and affectionately intimate … superbly recorded orchestral colours’ (BBC Music Magazine)

‘As in his four-disc set of Glazunov's complete solo piano music, Stephen Coombs is poetic and powerful. The rare Goedicke concertante makes a charming filler’ (The Guardian)

„Stephen Coombs is on scintillating form throughout, turning even the most standardised of virtuoso gestures into remarkable utterances“ (Piano, Germany)

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Do you know the line from Chukovsky’s children’s story about how hard it is to pull a hippo from a swamp? Well, I’m pulling a hippo from the swamp of my memory, and the hippo’s name is Glazunov. He is a good, kind and helpful hippo … As I reminisce about this major Russian musician and great Russian man I become agitated. I knew him, and I knew him well. And today’s generation virtually doesn’t know him at all. For today’s young musicians, Glazunov is like some Slavic wardrobe from Grandfather’s collection of furniture.

In these curious utterances, and in a wealth of connected anecdotes, we encounter one composer through the eyes of another. The quotations are from Testimony, the memoirs which Solomon Volkov reportedly took down in shorthand during endless conversations with the ailing Dmitri Shostakovich during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The object of suspicion in some quarters, this book nonetheless appears highly convincing, both in its oblique portrayal of Shostakovich himself and in its sharply etched vignettes of many contemporaneous musicians, artists and political protagonists. At Shostakovich’s request, the memoirs were published after his death [the above translation copyright of Harper and Row, Inc., New York, 1979]. In the case of Glazunov the recollections of Shostakovich appear unimpeachably genuine, and their vivid picture, expressed in terms of unaffected admiration and gratitude, is also a poignant one. The bizarre imagery quoted above is acute in more than one sense. Glazunov was of imposing build (at least until the privations of his later years), ponderous of movement and often somnolent of disposition. A native kindness was concealed from the less observant by a mournful air and by a heavily jowled physiognomy with the faintest suggestion in it of Tartarish antecedence. So much for the hippo. The ‘Slavic wardrobe’, meanwhile, conjures impressions both of quaintly stolid reliability and again of awkward bulk, but also of an unglimpsed past of obscure fascination, the Slavic epithet suggesting the faint lure of a fairy-tale exoticism. Such, as Shostakovich knew, was indeed central to Glazunov’s creative imagination as a composer.

Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was born in St Petersburg on 10 August 1865, the year which saw the births also of Nielsen and Sibelius. In 1879 Balakirev met him and assisted in the establishment of composition lessons with Rimsky-Korsakov, who proclaimed that his pupil progressed ‘not from day to day, but from hour to hour’. Glazunov’s Symphony No 1 received its first performance under Balakirev in March 1882, astonishing listeners with its mature fluency and assurance. As a result the sixteen-year-old composer came under the influential wing of Mitrofan Belaieff who set about publishing and promoting his work and introduced him to what became known as the ‘Belaieff Circle’ of composers. In 1887, after Borodin’s sudden death while hosting a party in his own home, that composer’s unfinished or unorchestrated works became the responsibility of Rimsky-Korsakov: ‘Glazunov and I sorted all the manuscripts. We decided to finish, orchestrate and set in order all that had been left behind … as well as prepare it for publication, on which … Belaieff had resolved’. (Rimsky-Korsakov: My Musical Life, translated by Judah A Joffe; Faber & Faber, 1989.)

In 1899 Glazunov acceded to the professorship of composition and orchestration at the St Petersburg Conservatoire, becoming Director in 1905. He was destined to leave the Soviet Union in 1928, somehow managing to retain titular office at St Petersburg for a further two years. By this time the pressures of an onerous position and the privations of both world and civil war had taken their toll; hence the tragicomic dimension in the memoirs of Shostakovich, who could remember him late on in the older man’s career. A bachelor for much of his life, Glazunov had lived for many years with his mother, whose protective instincts were so powerful that Rimsky-Korsakov was able to recall her admonishing a maid over ‘the child’s linen’; the Director of the St Petersburg Conservatoire was seemingly past forty at the time. In view of the difficulties of such a ménage, and of material hardships which caused the Glazunovs to inhabit only two rooms of their large apartment, it is perhaps not surprising that alcohol played a significant part in the composer’s life. Having discovered that Shostakovich senior could procure neat alcohol for him from state reserves, Glazunov is recalled by his student protégé exercising all his powers of persuasion at a time when vodka was not to be had.

The above is arguably relevant to an appraisal of Glazunov’s compositional productivity in that it would seem to throw no less light than administrative distractions upon an extreme decline in output after 1906. It is a curious fact that the composer’s symphonic output was by then complete, with the solitary exception of a slow movement (1910; orchestrated by Yudin) which is all that exists, in any definitive form, of a planned ninth symphony. All the eight complete symphonies therefore predate the celebrated Symphony No 2 of Rachmaninov and may thus be seen the more clearly as an extension of an earlier chapter in the growth of the Russian symphony as a whole. The reasons for such an identification require closer scrutiny and also some qualification.

As has been indicated, Glazunov’s early career brought him into amicable proximity with at least three of the proponents of Russian nationalism via the Belaieff Circle. By that time, however, the so-called Kuchka or ‘Mighty Handful’ (also known simply as ‘The Five’, and consisting of Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov) had largely had its day: ‘But who were we in the eighties? In the sixties and seventies we were Balakirev’s circle, at first under his absolute leadership, later little by little casting off the yoke of his absolutism and gaining greater independence … Our circle of the eighties, especially … the latter half of that decade, was no longer Balakirev’s, but Belaieff’s’ [Rimsky Korsakov: ibid.]. A native streak of paranoia in Balakirev’s make-up ensured mutual alienation thereafter. Mussorgsky had died in 1881, Borodin six years later. Cui’s significance as a true member of The Five had always been open to question on grounds of both style and achievement, and he is often remembered now mainly for his notoriously destructive review of the first performance of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No 1 in St Petersburg in 1897 (conducted, ironically, by Glazunov in a questionable state of sobriety). Thus it was that Balakirev ostracized himself from what had been largely his own brainchild, and that Belaieff’s stewardship of the nationalist coterie in its next incarnation began to reconcile its aims with calm consolidation and a willingness to watch developments in Western Europe with interest. Glazunov had been taken by Belaieff to Weimar to meet Liszt in 1884, an encounter resulting in a performance there of the First Symphony which did more than anything to put the young composer ‘on the map’. He was to be described as an admirer of Liszt by Shostakovich decades later, preferring Liszt’s playing to that of Anton Rubinstein, even though he had by then dedicated his Symphony No 4 to the latter.

To these observations we should add that Glazunov’s symphonic ancestry extends to Tchaikovsky, a composer whom it is easy to misinterpret as archetypally Russian simply on account of his importance in his lifetime and his durable reputation. As Leslie Howard wrote in a perceptive essay on Glazunov [EMI Records Ltd, 1977], there is ‘a fairly narrow and generally balletic emotional frame of reference’ in his symphonies. Glazunov himself produced a number of actual ballet scores whose quality and vivid orchestral colouring place them very close to Tchaikovsky’s, and these find a natural extension in the intermezzo, scherzo or variation movements of his concert works. If the emotional climate of the more ambitious outer movements remains balletic, however, the rhetorical aims and effortless instinct for climactic pacing do strongly suggest Tchaikovsky the symphonist, not merely the ballet composer. A persuasive example is the first movement of Glazunov’s Symphony No 6 (1896), arguably his masterpiece and a work whose finale offers an exhilarating parallel to that of Symphony No 3 by Saint-Saëns (though without recourse to the organ). As Howard further notes, however, Glazunov’s date of birth both precluded too close an identification with Tchaikovsky’s symphonic output and also militated against association with the relatively progressive tendency represented by the mature Rachmaninov or the iconoclastic Scriabin. His compositional make-up was further compounded by interest in Wagner, to whom Liszt had introduced him. Moreover, Howard detects in Glazunov’s Symphony No 8 signs of Sibelian influence. In the face of all this he becomes a far harder man to pigeon-hole than might be anticipated—a fact which surely increases rather than diminishes him as a source of interest. While it would clearly be mistaken to distance him too emphatically from the nationalism of the Kuchka, its influence is only an ingredient in an idiom which offers more than the sum of its parts. A substantial body of melodious and distinctive chamber music bears further witness to this.

Glazunov turned to the concerto only when his espousal of the symphony seemed almost to have run its course. It is wholly typical of his outlook that he learned the violin in preparation for the writing of his only Violin Concerto (Opus 82; 1904). In 1911 and 1916, some years after the intervening Eighth Symphony, came the two concertos for piano and orchestra, these being followed much later by a Concerto-Ballata for cello and orchestra and a Saxophone Concerto dating from his final year.

In matters pianistic Glazunov differs from contemporaneous figures with whom he otherwise had much in common. Unlike Liapunov, Medtner and Rachmaninov, all among the finest pianists of their age, or Scriabin, an idiosyncratic virtuoso in defiance of an early hand injury, Glazunov was the kind of player whose ability, though limited and largely unrehearsed, is sufficiently facile and expressive to gain an unquantifiable stature through its direct communication of a towering musical intelligence. ‘He didn’t have a real piano technique and he often played without removing the famous cigar from … between his third and fourth fingers … And yet he managed to play every note, absolutely everything, including the most difficult passages … Glazunov could also sight-read the most complicated score and make it sound as though an excellent orchestra were playing’ [Shostakovich: ibid.]. This is significant in its contribution to his writing for the piano. He had stressed to Shostakovich the desirable virtue in pianists of a capacity for polyphonic voicing and projection. Therefore, while his concertante writing may nod in the direction of Tchaikovsky, it is in many instances and general respects more subtly conceived for the instrument by a mind connecting more intimately with the instrument’s range of possibilities. Less formidably knowing in its intricacy than Medtner and Rachmaninov, less Lisztian than Liapunov, and eschewing the Chopinesque improvisatory freedom of Scriabin’s quite early Concerto, it is sui generis amongst Russian counterparts, perhaps owing something even to Brahms in its bringing together of the orchestral and the pianistic instincts but without the uncompromising sheer awkwardness which is sometimes that composer’s keyboard inheritance from Beethoven. As the great pianist and teacher Heinrich Neuhaus wrote, ‘[Glazunov’s] music I term “three handed”, since it is full of sustained tenuto basses in octaves while both hands are busy in the upper registers … This is in no way an implied criticism … but its very writing immediately reveals a composer who thinks mainly orchestrally’ [The Art of Piano Playing, translated by K A Leibovich; Barrie & Jenkins, London, 1973].

Glazunov’s Piano Concerto No 1, Opus 92, is cast in only two outward movements, the second being an amalgam in variation form of slow movement, scherzando elements and finale (coda). The work’s opening, quite characteristically, is deceptively sombre. A cadenza-like statement from the pianist leads into a broad declamation of the main theme, ‘pathetic’ in the Tchaikovskian sense and immediately presaging the magnificent climactic restatement which it will eventually receive from the orchestra against broken octaves from the soloist. The second subject, in the unexpected key of E major, is notable particularly for its extremely close relationship to the famous slow movement of Rachmaninov’s Symphony No 2 (heard first in St Petersburg a mere three years earlier), of which it offers an almost exact paraphrase in its harmonic rhythm and melodic contour. Development is resourcefully achieved by rhythmic diminution and progressive combination of the themes. The recapitulatory climax serves also to fuel a rhetorically stormy conclusion in comparable textural terms.

The sequence of variations which follows presents a slow theme in triple time and in the key of D flat major (whose subsidence to the overall dominant pedal note C in the concluding pages mirrors the semitonal relationship of the first movement’s themes). After prolonged examination of the variation theme from many cunningly deceptive rhythmic angles the seventh variation presents a mazurka in A major, thus paving the way for a complete descending tonal cycle from F back to F via keys a major third from one another. The ninth and last variation ingeniously resurrects all the prime subject-matter of the first movement and combines it with the variation theme in a succinct but eventful peroration. Throughout the variations the balletic propensity is very much in evidence, as is unobtrusive mastery of all the purely academic problems which Glazunov set himself. The concerto is dedicated to Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938), whom Glazunov had heard on tour in St Petersburg during 1905.

Piano Concerto No 2, Opus 100, is written in the unlikely key of B major but ends in E major. Abandoning convention further than its predecessor, it begins in a mellow and autumnal frame of mind before burgeoning into an unhurriedly expansive discourse between soloist and orchestra. The opening theme, presented without preamble by the lower strings, is to serve as a motto or reference point throughout the work. A secondary subject is presented in G major, laying the ground for combination with the first subject by actually evolving out of its opening notes. Soon an Allegro is reached in which the soloist is able to move between lyrical freedom and a greater rhythmic muscularity. This in turn leads to an idyllic slow ‘movement’ in which the second subject is given free rein. Here it reveals fully its rhythmic, lyrical and pianistic relationship to the slow movement in Glazunov’s Piano Sonata No 1, Opus 74, published in 1900, a work containing one of the composer’s most memorable broad melodies in its finale (recorded on Hyperion CDA66833). After the concerto’s slow section, development continues, now employing the secondary theme as well and evolving a further, partially sequential theme from it. Another balletic scherzo leads eventually to a finale whose purpose is, broadly speaking, that of its counterpart in the earlier concerto. The themes explored thus far transmute constantly into new forms, crowned by a chorale-like variant of the motto theme from the beginning of the work. The peroration generates far greater energy and excitement than might have been anticipated at the outset of this genial and attractive piece, even if a final unison statement of the motto by implacable brass may strike some listeners as belonging to an altogether more formidable and less personable genre. Some have seen in it an excuse to question the inspiration of the work as a whole, whereas it is at worst a brief misapplication of symphonic convention in music which might have ended a couple of bars sooner.

The model for the Second Concerto is as difficult to categorize as Glazunov’s style in general. The outward format suggests the synthesis of movements adopted by Liszt and copied assiduously by pianist-composers of his own ‘stable’ such as d’Albert. The mood and feeling, however, are more in keeping with the ‘narrative’ intentions of Medtner in his Third Concerto—and it was to Medtner that Glazunov paid his heartfelt tribute by declaring him the ‘true defender of the sacred laws of art’.

After his extended leave of absence from St Petersburg, Glazunov eventually settled in Paris, destination before him of Liapunov and, temporarily, Medtner. He was accompanied by his wife Olga Gavrilova, and adopted daughter Elena Gavrilova, a pianist who as Elena Glazunov appeared frequently in the two concertos. By this time the composer’s health had broken down and he died on 21 March 1936. A Glazunov archive exists in Paris. The composer’s remains were re-interred in 1972 in what had become Leningrad. Still belittled today by many as a composer, he was revered by his contemporaries for his astounding musicianship and legendary memory, his erudition, and his generosity and integrity. Asked officially at the time of pogroms in St Petersburg how many Jews attended the Conservatoire, he is reported to have replied, “We don’t keep count”, and to have got away with it where others almost certainly would not have done. The anecdotes of Shostakovich and others pull from the swamp a hippo of mournfully mischievous humour but also of moral courage; the music, meanwhile, amply fills the ‘Slavic wardrobe’ with the most beguiling of contents.

If Glazunov’s œuvre only partially embraces nationalism, the more modest and much more recondite output of Alexander Goedicke (or Gedike) rejects it altogether. Born in Moscow on 4 March 1877, he must be pitied a little in that his main claim to posthumous attention has been the vicarious one that he was the first cousin, on the distaff side, of a much more significant composer, Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951). From Nicolas Medtner: His Life and Music, the definitive Medtner biography by Barrie Martin [Scolar Press, 1995], we learn that the Goedicke family were Russian immigrants from Pomerania but had possibly originated in Sweden, whereas Medtner’s own ancestry might have extended ultimately to Denmark. There was a time-honoured tradition of illustrious organ playing in the Goedicke family, and Alexander, the most distinguished musician among them, later became Russia’s foremost exponent, performing the complete organ works of Bach and recording one or two. As a student, however, he shone as a virtuoso pianist under Galli, Pabst (a German-born Liszt pupil) and Safonov at the Moscow Conservatoire, concurrently taking composition lessons with Arensky, Konyus and Ladhukin. As a member of a close-knit and intellectually enlightened extended family, he had already participated in chamber groups with his younger cousin, and preceded him at the Conservatoire. At this stage it would seem that he yielded little if anything to Medtner as a pianist. Despite Medtner’s status later as one of the century’s great virtuosi the honours might have remained fairly equal but for Goedicke’s espousal of the organ.

Arensky’s teaching in composition appears to have constituted a relatively general alternative to ‘core’ studies. Although, like Medtner after him, Goedicke undertook Arensky’s course, and also received informal guidance from Taneyev, he must be considered very largely a self-taught composer. It is therefore the more to his credit that the work heard here, the Concertstück, was awarded a prize at the Anton Rubinstein International Competition in Vienna in 1900, along with his violin sonata from the previous year. From 1909 he served as a professor of piano at the Moscow Conservatoire. His output includes three symphonies (1902/3, 1905 and 1922), three piano sonatas (two of which predate the Concertstück), a piano quintet, a piano trio, two string quartets, a sonata for cello and piano, and four operas to his own libretti. He died in Moscow on 9 July 1957.

By the time of his Conservatoire appointment Goedicke had already ceded compositional honours in the family to Medtner—amicably, one may assume. His early works show the same awareness of Germanic heritage as Medtner’s, and in general they may be said to possess a similar quality of slight understatement without, however, evincing the distinctive personality with which Medtner so richly compensates upon closer acquaintance. The early D major/minor Piano Sonata, Opus 18, for example, essays a densely textured two-movement form probably indebted to the Chopinesque Second Sonata of Scriabin, while demonstrating also a willingness to follow Scriabin’s subsequent harmonic radicalism only so far. We may thus be faced here with a composer who partially lost his progressive nerve, or else merely one who found other creative outlets more rewarding. Either way, it is Goedicke’s early works that most clearly repay attention.

The Concertstück in D major opens with a motto theme which is promptly elaborated by the solo pianist. From modest beginnings emerge a brief, potentially chorale-like orchestral statement and a freely ornamental piano solo. An acceleration leads to an ‘Allegro molto sostenuto e maestoso’ which, in authentic Glazunov fashion, both extends earlier thematic content and subjects it to rhythmic transformation in rapid triple time. The pianist’s role remains decorative. A secondary theme, still in the tonic key and marked ‘Moderato quasi andante’, reverts to a basic four-in-the-bar, introducing a characteristic melodic contour of a rising major second and perfect fifth. The pianist launches into a broad left-hand declamation of the theme beneath a triplet accompaniment. With further orchestral involvement this reaches an expansive climax. Here, at least, we can find easy parallels with the outward means of a Glazunov; there are also similarities to the all-in-one design of Liapunov’s beautiful Second Concerto, where Balakirev’s overpowering influence sometimes slips and the ineluctably Lisztian origin of the keyboard writing reveals that composer’s shade as well (in any case, as has been said, the structural prototype is his).

Expectations are confirmed by a scherzo section, Allegro agitato, based on one of the orchestra’s phrases from the first section. However, the edges of the sectional layout now become blurred by reminiscence of earlier textures and tempos, as well as by what seems premature reappearance of the original motto theme. A prolonged recapitulation in B major of the secondary theme follows, along with a subdued and delicate cadenza. The finale ‘proper’ then gets under way, not before a suggestion has been made of an over-arching sonata integration of themes very much along the lines of Liszt. The key of B major is now established for good and is celebrated by the pianist in pages of fearsome virtuosity. Here the sobriety of a Medtner is conspicuous by its absence and the listener is left in no doubt as to the formidable virtuoso competition offered in youth by his gifted relative. Had their paths crossed, it seems certain that Goedicke would have enjoyed the approval also of Glazunov.

Francis Pott © 1996

Le Concerto pour piano No 1 de Alexander Glazounov, Op 92, est composé de seulement deux mouvements apparents, le deuxième étant un amalgame sur la variation d’un mouvement lent, des éléments de scherzo et de finale (coda). Le travail d’ouverture, tout à fait caractéristique, donne l’illusion de noirceur. Le jeu de pianiste, en cadence, conduit à une large déclamation du thème principal, le «pathétique», dans le sens tchaikovskien du terme, et qui laisse aussitôt présager le répétition magnifique à son apogée, qu’il reçoit éventuellement de l’orchestre contre des octaves brisées du soliste. Le second sujet, de façon inattendue en clé de mi majeure, est particulièrement remarquable pour la relation très étroite qu’il a avec le célèbre mouvement lent de la Symphonie No 2 de Rachmaninov (entendue pour la première fois il y a seulement trois ans à Saint Pétersbourg), duquel il offre une paraphrase presque exacte dans son rythme harmonieux et dans son contour de mélodie. Le développement est réussi par la diminution rythmique et la combinaison progressive des thèmes. L’apogée qui récapitule sert aussi à alimenter une conclusion rhétoriquement orageuse en termes textuels comparables.

La série de variations qui suit présente un thème lent en trois temps et en clé de ré bémol majeur (dont la subsistance à l’égard de la note de pédale do dominante dans les pages de conclusion, reflète la relation de demi-ton des thèmes du premier mouvement). Après un examen approfondi du thème de variation de différents angles rythmiques finement illusoires, la septième variation présente une mazurka en la majeur, ouvrant ainsi la voie à un cycle de tons descendants en fa à fa par clés un tiers majeurs d’un autre. La neuvième et dernière variation remet à jour de façon ingénieuse tout le sujet principal du premier mouvement et l’associe avec le thème de variation dans une péroraison succinte mais pleine d’évènements. A travers les variations la propension au ballet est en évidence, de même que la maîtrise discrète de tous les problèmes purement académiques que Glazounov s’est posés. Le Concerto est dédié à Léopold Godowsky (1870–1938) que Glazounov a entendu en concert à Saint Pétersbourg en 1905.

Le Concerto pour piano No 2, Op 100, est composé dans le clé inattendue de si majeur mais se termine en sol majeur. S’éloignant de la convention encore plus que celui qui le précède, il débute dans un esprit doux et automnal avant d’éclore en un entretien lent et expansif entre soliste et orchestre. Le thème d’ouverture, présenté sans préambule par les cordes basses, doit servir de titre ou de point de référence pendant toute l’œuvre. Un sujet secondaire et présenté en si majeur, plaçant les fondations d’une combinaison avec le premier sujet en évoluant tout bonnement à partir de ses notes d’ouverture. On atteint bientôt un allegro dans lequel le soliste peut évoluer entre liberté lyrique et une plus grande muscularité de rythme. Ceci amène alors un «mouvement» lent idyllique dans lequel on donne libre cours au second sujet. Il révèle ici pleinement sa relation rythmique, lyrique et pianistique avec le lent mouvement de la Sonate pour piano No 1, Op 74, de Glazounov, publiée en 1900, œuvre contenant dans son finale l’une des mémorables vastes mélodies du compositeur (enregistrée sur Hyperion CDA66833). Après la section lente du concerto, le développement se poursuit, utilisant maintenant le thème secondaire aussi et créant à partir de lui un nouveau thème en partie séquentiel. Un autre scherzo de ballet amène enfin un finale dont la raison d’être est, pour ainsi dire, celle de son équivalent dans le concerto du début. Les thèmes ainsi explorés se transforment constamment en de nouvelles formes, couronnées par une variante de type chorale du thème-titre du début de l’œuvre. Le péroraison génère une énergie et une émotion bien plus importantes que ce que l’on aurait pu anticiper au début de cette pièce agréable et attrayante, même si une reprise à l’unisson en fin d’œuvre du thème-titre par des cuivres implacables, peut sembler à certains auditeurs appartenir à un genre bien plus grandiose et bien moins aimable. Certains s’en sont servi comme excuse pour remettre en question l’inspiration de l’œuvre entière, alors qu’il s’agit au pire cas d’une mauvaise application, pour un instant, de la convention symphonique pour une musique qui aurait pu se terminer quelques mesures plus tôt.

Si l’œuvre de Glazounov est teintée de nationalisme, la production d’Alexander Goedicke (ou Gedike), plus éffacée et bien plus obscure, le rejette entièrement. Le Concertstück en re majeur s’ouvre avec un thème-titre qui est promptement élaboré par le pianist solo. A partir de débuts modérés on voit émerger une courte exposition orchestrale qui pourrait être de type chorale, ainsi qu’un solo pour piano librement ornemental. Une accélération amène un allegro molto sostenuto e maestoso qui, fait caractéristique pour Glazounov, à la fois développe le contenu thématique antérieur et le soumet à une transformation rythmique en un rapide trois temps. Le rôle du pianiste demeure ornemental. Un thème secondaire, toujours en clé tonique et noté «moderato quasi andante», revient à une simple mesure à quatre, introduisant un contour mélodique caractéristique avec un deuxième en majeur ascendant et un cinquième parfait. Le pianiste se lance dans une vaste déclamation à la main gauche du thème, à l’abri d’un l’accompagnement de triolet. La participation orchestrale augmentant, le tout atteint un apogée virulent. Là enfin, on peut facilement déceler des parallèles avec les moyens expansifs de Glazounov; il y a aussi des similarités avec la conception intégrée du beau deuxième concerto de Liapunov, où la puissante influence de Balakirev disparaît parfois et l’origine inéluctablement lisztiennee de l’écriture pour clavier révèle aussi cet aspect du compositeur (de toute façon, comme on le sait, le prototype structurel est de lui).

Nos attentes se trouvent confirmées par une section en scherzo, allegro agitato, basée sur l’une des phrases de l’orchestre tirée de la première section. Toutefois, les limites de l’organisation des sections deviennent floues du fait de l’évocation des tessitures et tempos antérieurs, ainsi que par ce qui ressemble à une réapparition prématurée du thème-titre original. On poursuit avec une récapitulation prolongée en ré majeur du thème secondaire, ainsi qu’avec une cadence adoucie et délicate. Le «vrai» finale s’engage enfin, mais après que l’on ait suggéré une intégration à crescendo en sonate des thèmes, d’une manière qui rappelle beaucoup Liszt. La clé en ré majeur est maintenant bien établie et célébrée par le pianiste en pages d’une redoutable virtuosité.

Francis Pott © 1996
Français: Odette Rogers

Glasunows Klavierkonzert Nr. 1, Opus 92, besteht aus nur zwei äußeren Sätzen, von denen der zweite eine Mischung aus einem langsamen Satz, Scherzando-Elementen und einem Finale (Coda) ist. Auf recht bezeichnende Weise ist der Anfang des Werkes trügerisch düster. Eine kadenzähnliche Aussage des Pianisten führt zu einer breiten Deklamation des Hauptthemas, das in der Manier Tschaikowskis „pathetisch“ ist und unmittelbar den Höhepunkt, eine hervorragende Wiederaufnahme des Orchesters vor gebrochenen Oktaven des Solisten, vorausahnen läßt. Das zweite Thema im unerwarteten E-Dur ist wegen seiner äußerst engen Verwandtschaft zum berühmten langsamen Satz von Rachmaninows Sinfonie Nr. 2 (die ihre Uraufführung drei Jahre zuvor in Petersburg erlebt hatte) von auffallender Besonderheit und bildet mit seinem harmonischen Rhythmus und seiner melodischen Kontur eine nahezu perfekte Paraphrase. Die Durchführung wird phantasievoll durch rhythmische Diminuation und progressive Themenkombination erreicht. Der Reprisenhöhepunkt dient schließlich auch als Impuls für einen rhetorisch stürmischen Schluß in entsprechend strukturellen Beziehungen.

Eine nun folgende Variationssequenz stellt im Tripeltakt und in Des-Dur ein langsames Thema vor (dessen Abfallen zum allgemein dominantischen Grundton C in den abschließenden Seiten die Halbtonbeziehungen zwischen den Themen des ersten Satzes widerspiegelt). Nach einer ausführlichen Prüfung des Variationsthemas durch viele listig täuschende rhythmische Möglichkeiten präsentiert die siebente Variation endlich eine Mazurka in A-Dur. Damit wird der Weg für einen tonalen Zyklus geebnet, der von F zurück nach F durch alle Tonarten führt, die jeweils eine übermäßige Terz auseinanderliegen. Die neunte und letzte Variation läßt in aller Pracht das gesamte thematische Hauptmaterial des ersten Satzes wiederaufleben und kombiniert es in einer knappen, dennoch bewegten Zusammenfassung mit dem Variationsthema. In allen Variationen werden sowohl eine Tendenz zum Tänzerischen als auch ein unauffälliges Meistern aller rein akademischen Hürden sichtbar, die Glasunow sich selbst in den Weg stellte. Das Konzert ist Leopold Godowsky (1870–1938) gewidmet, den Glasunow 1905 in einem Petersburger Konzert gehört hatte.

Das Klavierkonzert Nr. 2, Opus 100, ist in der ungewöhnlichen Tonart H-Dur gehalten, schließt jedoch in E-Dur ab. Dieses Werk bricht im Gegensatz zu seinem Vorgänger noch markanter mit der herkömmlichen Kompositionsweise, indem es in sanfter und herbstlicher Stimmung beginnt und sich schließlich zu vollem Glanz und einem gemächlich umfassenden Diskurs zwischen Solist und Orchester entfaltet. Das ohne Vorspiel von den tiefen Streichern vorgestellte eröffnende Thema dient als Leitgedanke oder Bezugspunkt des gesamten Werkes. Es wird ein Nebenthema in G-Dur präsentiert, das mit dem ersten Thema kombiniert und aus den einleitenden Noten geschaffen worden ist. Schon bald erschallt ein Allegro, in dem der Solist sich ohne jegliche lyrische Grenzen und mit einer größeren rhythmischen Stärke frei bewegen kann. Diese Wendung leitet in einen idyllischen, langsamen „Satz“ über, dessen zweites Thema ungehindert fortgeführt wird. Hier offenbaren sich ganz deutlich die rhythmischen, lyrischen und pianistischen Beziehungen zum langsamen Satz von Glasunows 1900 veröffentlichter Klaviersonate Nr. 1, Opus 74, einem Werk, das in seinem Finale eine der unvergeßlich breiten Melodien des Komponisten vorstellt (vgl. die Aufnahme für Hyperion CDA66833). Nach dem langsamen Abschnitt des Konzerts wird die Durchführung fortgesetzt, und es wird nun auch das Nebenthema präsentiert, aus dem sich eine weitere, zum Teil sequenzierende Melodie entwickelt. Ein weiteres tänzerisches Scherzo leitet schließlich das Finale ein, deren Aufgabe im großen und ganzen im Sinne seines Pendants aus dem früheren Konzert definiert ist. Die bisher durchgearbeiteten Themen wandeln sich stets in neue Formen um, deren Krönung eine choralähnliche Variante des anfänglichen thematischen Leitgedankens ist. Die Zusammenfassung macht weitaus mehr Energie und Spannung frei, als zu Beginn dieses genialen und reizenden Stückes zu erwarten war. Mancher Hörer mag dennoch das Gefühl haben, als gehöre die letzte Zusammenfassung des Leitgedankens mit den unerbittlichen Blechbläsern im Unisono zu einem Genre ganz und gar größeren Volumens und eher grober Struktur. Einige haben dies zum Anlaß genommen, die Idee des Werkes als Ganzes in Frage zu stellen. Aber es ist schlimmstenfalls die kurze Fehlanwendung einer sinfonischen Schreibweise auf eine Musik, die auch schon einige Takte früher hätte abgeschlossen werden können.

Während sich Glasunow in seinem Œuvre nur teilweise nationaler Elemente bediente, lehnte Alexander Goedicke (oder Gedicke) diese in seinem bescheideneren und wesentlich abstruseren Gesamtwerk vollkommen ab. Sein Concertstück in D-Dur beginnt mit einem thematischen Leitgedanken, der sofort in einem Klaviersolo vom Pianisten näher erforscht wird. Aus bescheidenen Anfängen steigen ein kurzes, beinahe choralähnliches, orchestrales Statement und ein frei verziertes Klaviersolo empor. Eine Akzeleration führt zu einem Allegro molto sostenuto e maestoso, das ganz in der Manier Glasunows sowohl frühere thematische Gehalte erweitert als auch diese einer rhythmischen Umgestaltung in schnellen Tripeltakt unterwirft. Die Rolle des Pianisten verbleibt dekorativ.

Ein immer noch in der Haupttonart gehaltenes Nebenthema, das mit „Moderato quasi andante“ markiert ist, kehrt zum grundlegenden Vierertakt zurück und umreißt die charakteristischen melodischen Konturen sowohl einer steigenden Dur-Sekunde als auch einer perfekten Quinte. Der Pianist setzt nun mit einer breiten Themendeklamation der linken Hand vor einer Triolenbegleitung ein. Zusammen mit einem verstärkten Einsatz des Orchesters steigert sich dies zu einem umfangreichen Höhepunkt. Zumindest hier können wir direkte Parallelen zu jenen äußeren, für Glasunow so bezeichnenden Stilmitteln ziehen; außerdem sind Ähnlichkeiten mit der Alles-in-einem-Struktur von Liapunows wunderschönem zweiten Konzert vorhanden, in dem zuweilen der überwältigende Einfluß Balakirews durchschimmert; auch offenbart sich unverkennbar die Handschrift der Lisztschen Tastenkomposition. (Wie bereits erwähnt, kann der strukturelle Prototyp zweifellos ihm zugeschrieben werden).

Erwartungen werden im Scherzo Allegro agitato bestätigt, das auf einer der Orchesterphrasen des ersten Abschnittes beruht. Dennoch werden die Abgrenzungen der einzelnen Abschnitte nun sowohl durch die Reminiszenz früherer Strukturen und Tempi als auch durch eine auf den ersten Blick scheinbar verfrühte Wiederholung des ursprünglichen thematischen Leitgedankens verschwommener. Es folgt eine erweiterte Reprise des Nebenthemas in H-Dur, zusammen mit einer überwältigenden und zarten Kadenz. Das Finale setzt nun in voller Stärke ein, jedoch erst, als im Sinne recht Lisztscher Linienführung eine alles umspannende Sonatenintegration der Themen angedeutet wird. Die Tonart H-Dur hat sich nun ein für alle Mal fest verankert und wird über mehrere Seiten in furchterregender Virtuosität vom Pianisten gefeiert.

Francis Pott © 1996
Deutsch: Ute Mansfeldt

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