Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov: Sheherazade (Tale of Tsar Saltan, Suite for orchestra, 1-3 Op.57)
While the Symphony No. 6 in C minor, Op. 58, of 1896 by Alexander Glazunov is not the most personally characteristic of his eight completed symphonies — the optimistic Third or the Olympian Fifth are more typical of his confident symphonic aesthetic — it is arguably the most typically Russian of his symphonies. Part of the reason for this is the scoring — violins in octaves above massed brass at its climaxes à la Tchaikovsky and gorgeously colorful woodwind writing in its central movements — part of it is the themes — ardent and powerful with a yearning quality characteristic of fin de siècle Russian symphonies — but most of it is the furious tone of the opening movement.
******With the darkly unfolding Adagio leading into a Allegro appassionato that balances a passionately despairing first theme with a fervently supplicating second theme, Glazunov’s Sixth sounds like a Russian symphony composed after the death of Tchaikovsky. But the Sixth is more than the work of a symphonic epigone. While the tone of the opening movement sounds typically Russian, its chromatic melodic and cogent harmonic structure makes it sound much more modern than contemporary symphonies by Kalinnikov or even Rachmaninov. Even more modern are the Sixth’s second and fourth movements.
******The second movement is a theme and seven variations that slowly transmutes the tone of the symphony from the fury of the opening movement to one of calm acceptance.
******The brief third-movement Intermezzo that precedes the Finale is lighter in tone than anything else in the symphony.
******The Finale itself is one of Glazunov’s most successful closing movements. With its magisterial Andante maestoso introduction announcing the chorale theme that will ultimately cap the movement, its highly contrasted themes — the first confidently striding in the winds Moderato maestoso, the second a lilting Scherzando theme for the flutes, horns, and strings — the Finale seems at first too episodic to cohere. Glazunov’s superb technical skills, however, form all the Finale’s material into an organic whole and the tone of the Finale — powerfully positive — is altogether Glazunov’s own. ~ James Leonard, Rovi
Published by Adagietto on Jan 13, 2013/ 108,521 views
Numerous composers have responded to Shakespeare’s timeless drama of forbidden and youthful love, but Tchaikovsky’s response (along with Berlioz’s and Prokofiev’s) is at the top of the list. It is the only one of the three to be intended as a number in a symphony concert, and, hence is by default the most famous of the lot.
Tchaikovsky, a lawyer, was still developing as a composer at age 29 when Mily Balakirev (self-appointed father figure to Russian composers) persuaded him to write an orchestral work on the subject of the “star-cross’d lovers.” Balakirev outlined the form, planned the keys, and even suggested some of the actual music. After the 1870 premiere, he convinced Tchaikovsky to revise it. The work’s success in this form did much to transform the composer’s tendency toward crippling doubt into useful self-criticism. (Not that the transformation was ever total; Tchaikovsky suffered bouts of depression and self-doubt throughout his career.) The composer revised it again in 1880; this version is almost universally the one played. While the final version is probably the best one, the 1869 text is also a fine work and very much worth hearing. The earlier version begins with a charming tune that carries elements of the great love theme. In the first and second revisions Tchaikovsky eliminated this and replaced it with the benedictory theme representing Friar Laurence. The effect of this change on the overture’s structure is large. The first version seems to begin with Juliet still in a relatively childlike state, but with the potential for the great love present in the disguised premonitions of the love theme. The focus is, therefore, on the development of the drama as it unfolds. The later versions, beginning as it were with a prayer, seem to invite the hearer to look back on a tragedy that has already happened. Both versions proceed identically through depictions of the clashes between the houses of Montague and Capulet, and then unveil the great love music. After that, though, Tchaikovsky’s original idea seems to this writer to be superior: There is a great development, fugal-sounding and allowing for contrapuntal conflict based on the overture’s main rhythms and themes. It is tremendously exciting, more so than the music which replaced it. Justification for dropping it might be made along the lines that the original version has too much dramatic weight and overshadows the rest of the music. The main differences thereafter are in details of scoring, and in the finale, which in the original version is much too curt.
It is often instructive to see what a great composer has done at two different times with the same ideas and material. Whether or not it has greater musical merit, Tchaikovsky’s blessing of his final version served to ensure that it is the one that prevailed, and in that form it is accepted as one of the greatest programmatic pieces in the symphonic repertoire. The yearning love theme, in particular, is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest melodies ever written, while the exciting fight music and Tchaikovsky’s unfailingly clear and imaginative orchestration carry the listener through with hardly a misstep. But the original version is not far behind it in musical worth; it should be given more frequent revivals, if only for the sake of hearing the great fugato passage described above.
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Rimsky Korakov A lively classical instrumental, this recording made in the late 70s.
Prominent Russians: Aleksandr Glazunov
Aleksandr Glazunov was a Russian composer, professor and rector of the St. Petersburg Conservatory. His works of the late Russian Romantic period reconciled nationalism and cosmopolitanism in Russian music.
Child musical prodigy
Glazunov was born into a wealthy merchant family – his father was a prominent publisher and book trader in St. Petersburg. Glazunov’s mother was a good pianist and had a major influence on Aleksandr’s music education. She hired the best piano teachers for her son. To her great satisfaction, Glazunov was an eager student and as early as 13 he revealed a great talent for composition. In 1879 he met Mily Balakirev, one of the founders of the Russian nationalist school of composers known as The Five or The Mighty Handful.
Impressed by Glazunov’s talent, Balakirev recommended him to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, a composer and a member of The Five. Rimsky-Korsakov took it upon himself to teach Glazunov the theory of composition, harmony and instrumental accompaniment. Glazunov was a bright student and was able to cover the whole Conservatory program in just a year and a half.
Glazunov composed his first symphony at the age of 16, which was first played at a free school concert. It was also later performed at the Moscow Exhibition, conducted by Rimsky-Korsakov. Glazunov’s symphony was very well received and was followed by other works, which were just as fine as his first piece.
Glazunov with Fedor Chaliapin and Vladimir Stasov
Portrait of Alexander Glazunov.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The symphony is written in the traditional four movements.
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov wrote his Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 1 (originally in E-flat minor), between 1861 and 1865 under the guidance of Mily Balakirev. Balakirev also premiered the work at a concert of the Free Music School in December 1865. Rimsky-Korsakov revised the work in 1884.