"Portrait of

Alexander Glazunov"

Author Rinat Kuramshin

Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov (1865-1936) was a Russian composer, conductor and public figure, Professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory (1899), and Director of the Conservatory in 1907-1928.

Glazunov began to learn playing the piano when he was nine and started composing music at the age of eleven. In 1879 he met M. Balakirev, who saw the outstanding talent of the young man and introduced him to N. Rimsky[1]Korsakov. Glazunov began to take private lessons from N. Rimsky-Korsakov in music theory and composition. It took him half a year to study harmony, music forms and instrumentation. I 1882 Glazunov composed his First Symphony, which was successfully performed by Balakirev’s group. And shortly his first string Quartet came into being.M. Belyaev, a famous philanthropist and patron of art, who supported young Russian composers, paid attention to Glazunov. In 1885, Belyaev organized a series of Russian symphonic concerts and founded a musical publishing house in Leipzig. And a year earlier supported by Belyaev, Glazunov had gone abroad for the first time, where his First Symphony had been performed and where he met F. Liszt, who had a good opinion about his work. Having returned to St. Petersburg, Glazunov became one of the members of the «Belyaevsky Circle». Continuing the traditions of the Russian school of composition, Belyaev’s group also began to adhere to the Western musical culture. A. Glazunov together with N. Rimsky-Korsakov completed Borodin’s Opera «Prince Igor», which remained unfinished after the author’s death.

Glazunov’s phenomenal memory helped him repeat the Overture to the Opera and fragments of the third act he had heard Borodin playing on the piano before his death. Glazunov’s musical skills helped him fully orchestrate the symphony. In 1889 he made his debut as a conductor, performing his Second Symphony at the world exhibition in Paris.

In the early 1890s Glazunov experienced a creative crisis, which was replaced by a new rise: he composed three symphonies, chamber music and the «Raymonda» ballet which became most famous. The «Raymonda» ballet has found a long life both in the theater starting with its first production by M. Petipa and on the concert stage (as a suite). The secret of its popularity is the beauty of melodies and the fusion of the rhythm and orchestral sound with the plastique.


Photo. Petersburg Conservatory


"Minstrel's Song"

A. Glazunov

In 1899 Glazunov was appointed Professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he worked for about thirty years. After the events of 1905, when Rimsky-Korsakov was fired from the Conservatory for supporting revolutionary students, Glazunov also left his post in protest. But in December, after the Conservatory was separated from the Russian Music Society, he returned and was elected Director of the Conservatory. When he was elected director of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1905, he was at the height of his creative powers. His best works from this period are considered his Eighth Symphony and his Violin Concerto. This was also the time of his greatest international acclaim.In 1906 Glazunov composed music for the Anthem of the State Duma of the Russian Empire. He conducted the last of the Russian Historical Concerts in Paris on 17 May 1907, and received honorary Doctor of Music degrees from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. There were also cycles of all-Glazunov concerts in Saint Petersburg and Moscow to celebrate his 25th anniversary as a composer.

After the October revolution Glazunov managed to remain in office, establishing relations with the new government and maintain the prestigious status of the Conservatory. The best-known student under his tenure during the early Soviet years was Dmitri Shostakovich. In 1922 he was awarded the title of people’s artist of the Republic.

In 1928 Glazunov was invited to the composer’s competition in Vienna, dedicated to the centennial of F. Shubert’s death. In 1932, together with his wife Glazunov settled in Paris, where he occasionally composed music. Among his later works is a Concert for saxophone and orchestra dedicated to S. Rasher. Glazunov died in Paris in 1936. In 1972 his earthly remains were transported to Leningrad and interred at the Tikhvin cemetery of the Alexander Nevsky Lavra. An Institute dedicated to the composer was opened in Munich. His scores are stored in an archive in Paris. The Smaller Hall of the St. Petersburg Conservatory was named after the composer.