Alexander Glazunov’s seventh symphony is named the “Pastoral”, and as such it evokes inevitable comparison with Beethoven’s own Symphony No. 6. Glazunov’s is clearly not the equal of Beethoven’s, but how could it be? This is not to say that Glazunov’s work isn’t worth hearing, because it most certainly is. It is pastoral music heard through the prism of Russian Romanticism as opposed to Viennese Classicism. Lyrical, folk-song melodies abound, and the symphony often has that wonderful Russian feel of “sustained build”. There always seems to be a spot in the best Russian symphonies when you can feel the energies gathering for an inevitable release. Listen in particular for some really thrilling writing for the timpani and the chant-like opening of the second movement, which sounds almost like a chorus of monks as they gather for prayer.
Here is Alexander Glazunov’s Symphony No. 7 in F Major.
Next week: a small step backward, chronologically, to look at a Swedish composer with whom most are probably unfamiliar. (Including me!) And soon…Mahler.