Glazounov / The Seasons / Ansermet – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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More Glazounov / The Seasons / Ansermet

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This London Whiteback LP (CS 6509) has a Super Hot Side Two, flowing with Decca / London richness and sweetness. As we’ve said on the site many times, the London pressings with catalog numbers that start with 6400 and 6500 are some of the best recordings we’ve ever played. 

Side two gives you that sound. There are two lovely Concert Waltzes that complete the program and they are just wonderful here, with quiet vinyl to boot.

Side Two

A++ Super Hot Stamper sound! The top end is very sweet, and the overall presentation is clearer and richer than side one. This pressing is definitely high-rez: just listen to the rosiny texture on the strings. There is no Heavy Vinyl pressing of classical music that has that sound. (None that we’ve played anyway.)

Side One

A+, good, but not nearly as good as side two. Again, high-rez strings and plenty of clarity throughout, but the overall tonal balance lacks weight and top end extension. Side two will show you how much better it could have sounded.

London

We mentioned earlier how much we like the sound of Londons from about 6400 to 6500 or so (which are simply Decca recordings from the mid-’60s), and this one at CS 6509 is one of the reasons why. You get some of the tubey magic and golden age sound from Decca’s earlier days, coupled with not only the clarity, but the freedom from compression and tube smear, of their later period. In other words, this record strikes the perfect sonic balance, retaining qualities from different periods that are normally at odds with each other. Here they work together wonderfully.

Heavy Vinyl

Speakers Corner did this title on Heavy Vinyl back in the ’90s. I never thought very highly of it, but that was a long time ago (!).

Wikipedia on Glazunov

Glazunov was significant in that he successfully reconciled nationalism and cosmopolitanism in Russian music. While he was the direct successor to Balakirev’s nationalism, he tended more towards Borodin’s epic grandeur while absorbing a number of other influences. These included Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral virtuosity, Tchaikovsky’s lyricism and Taneyev’s contrapuntal skill. His weaknesses were a streak of academicism which sometimes overpowered his inspiration and an eclecticism which could sap the ultimate stamp of originality from his music. Younger composers such as Prokofiev and Shostakovich eventually considered his music old-fashioned while also admitting he remained a composer with an imposing reputation and a stabilizing influence in a time of transition and turmoil.

Answers.com on The Seasons

Alexander Glazunov’s ballet The Seasons, Op. 67, was composed for the Russian Imperial Ballet troupe, and first staged in February 1900 at the Mariinsky Theatre under the choreographic direction of Marius Petipa. The work is not, however, a ballet in the conventional sense, lacking as it does any clearly defined scenario. Instead, Glazunov’s The Seasons is cast in the form of a series of (appropriately) four tableaux, each of which is further subdivided; this model is similar to that of Tchaikovsky’s piano work of the same name, written a quarter-century earlier.

The ballet opens with a brief introduction, leading to the depiction of winter; its individual dances portray frost, ice, hail, and snow, respectively. Frost takes the form of a vigorous Polonaise, after which the violas and clarinets present a short dance suggesting ice. Hail takes the form of a scherzo, followed in turn by the waltz of the snow. Two gnomes then manage to dispel winter’s grip by lighting a fire, in readiness for the arrival of spring, on the harp, to the gentle accompaniment of the zephyr, wild birds, and flowers. Following dances for each, the roses, the birds, and indeed the spring itself pass by, as the heat of high summer now approaches.

Summer’s tableau is set amid the ripening corn, which dances along with wild poppies and cornflowers; all collapse exhausted in the heat, and as they rest, a group of water-bearing naiads arrive, dancing a graceful barcarole. A further dance follows, invoking the spirit of the corn, with an important clarinet solo. During the coda, fauns and satyrs try to carry off the spirit of the corn, but their attempts to do so are curtailed by the zephyr. Autumn is the season of new wine, and the fruits of the harvest. It is presented now by a wild dance to Bacchus, the god of the vintage. We hear fleeting references to themes from the earlier seasons, before the bacchanal of autumn returns, only to be eventually subdued as the leaves begin to fall from the trees. Finally, as the stage darkens, the stars of the heavens encircle the earth, a token of changeless, timeless eternity as the work draws to a close.

~ Michael Jameson, Rovi

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Glazounov: The Seasons

Side Two

Glazunov: The Seasons (cont.) 
Concert Waltz No. 1 in D Major 
Concert Waltz No. 2 in F Major

Instrumentation

Woodwinds: 1 piccolo, 2 flutes, 2 oboes (2nd doubling english horn in F), 2 clarinets in B-flat and A, 2 bassoons

Brass: 4 french horns in F, 2 trumpets in B-flat, 3 trombones, tuba

Percussion: timpani, triangle, tambourine, military drum, cymbal, bass drum, glockenspiel

Keyboard: celesta, pianino (upright piano)

Strings: harp, 1st and 2nd violins, violas, cellos, contrabass

Composition History

The score for Marius Petipa’s Les Saisons (The Seasons) was originally intended to have been composed by the Italian composer and conductor Riccardo Drigo, who was Glazunov’s colleague and close friend. Since 1886, Drigo held the posts of director of music and Chef d’orchestre to the Ballet of the St. Petersburg Imperial Theatres, while also serving as conductor for performances of the Italian operas in the repertory of the Imperial Opera. Petipa’s Les Millions d’Arlequin (a.k.a. Harlequinade) was also in its preliminary stages at the same time as Les Saisons, and was originally intended to have had a score supplied by Glazunov. Since both Drigo and Glazunov each had an affinity towards the other’s assigned ballet, the two composers agreed that Glazunov would compose Les Saisons and that Drigo would compose Les Millions d’Arlequin. Petipa’s Les Millions d’Arlequin was presented for the first time at the Imperial Theatre of the Hermitage on 23 February [O.S. 10 February] 1900. Les Saisons would premiere three days later. For both performances the whole of the Imperial court was in attendance.