Born August 10, 1856, St. Petersburg
Died March 21, 1936, Paris
Glazunov is one of those composers whose career can be classified as transitional, no matter how unhappy he may have been about that transition. As a child prodigy, Glazunov studied with Rimsky-Korsakov and was introduced to Liszt, who conducted his first symphony at Weimar. He joined the faculty of the St. Petersburg Conservatory at age 24 and was its director from 1905 until 1928. Glazunov’s musical language was rooted firmly in the nineteenth century, and though he was a champion of the young Shostakovich, he soon found most twentieth-century music distressing and his own music outmoded. He also found life in post-revolutionary Russia difficult, and he emigrated to Paris in 1928, where he lived out his final years, writing almost nothing.
Glazunov remains a peripheral figure in the history of music. His nine symphonies have their admirers, but only one of his works-the Violin Concerto of 1904-has become part of the the established repertory. The brief Minstrel Song of 1900, however, is a favorite with cellists, and it should be: this warm and lyric music looks back-as its title suggests-to a simpler time. After a brief introduction, the cello sings the nostalgic main idea and begins to embellish it. A slightly more animated second subject preserves the gentle mood of the opening before the music rises to a modest climax and subsides to close quietly.
Program notes by Eric Bromberger
Eric Bromberger, who lives in Los Osos, is program annotator for the Minnesota Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, Washington Performing Arts at the Kennedy Center, San Francisco Performances, the Chicago Symphony’s chamber series at the Art Institute of Chicago, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and many others. He was a violinist in the La Jolla Symphony for 32 seasons, and he has been a preconcert lecturer for the Los Angeles Philharmonic since 1999.