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Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Symphony No. 5 in B flat major Op. 55 (1895) [35:28]
Symphony No. 7 in F major Op. 77 (1901-02) [34:12]
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Tadaaki Otaka
rec. Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, 28 Apr 1995 (5); 5 Feb 1998 (7)
BIS BIS-CD-1388 [70:21]


If you like your Glazunov languid and accentuated then you have your man in Maestro Otaka. This is certainly the case with the Fifth Symphony where he communicates as a Giulini rather than as a young Bernstein; not that either conductor would have touched Glazunov's symphonies - go on surprise me! Even in the Scherzo of the Fifth Symphony (amongst the best of the nine symphonies) Otaka takes his time. The sparkle of the writing sparkles in slow motion. I rather miss the effervescence of Svetlanov, Fedoseyev and Rozhdestvensky. The rapped out playfulness of the last movement is also softened - more's the pity. That said this is recorded in splendidly etched sound with gallons of impact.

When it comes to the Seventh, occasionally known as The Pastoral, the overarching tempo is slow anyway. Otaka's clear-eyed and carefully controlled view works much better in this context. The music sings along in contemplation of rural scenes. Time and again the pastoral image shared with Beethoven's Sixth comes home with strength. The BBC Welsh are an extraordinary orchestra but I thought their wind section less than brilliant at the start of the scherzo.

There are literate and satisfyingly detailed notes from Marina Lobasova.

This for those who like their Glazunov considered and languorous. Otaka's Glazunov mind-set does not, on this evidence, extend to the sort of excitable exuberance we get with Svetlanov, Fedoseyev and Rozhdestvensky.

Glazunov is a composer well able to delight but the spirit rather like that in the symphonies of Bax and Miaskovsky can be elusive. It is captured only intermittently by Otaka.

Rob Barnett


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