Monday, November 7, 2011

Glazunov - The Seasons

Alexander Glazunov (1865 - 1936) was a Russian composer, music teacher and conductor. He was a child prodigy and was taught privately by Rimsky-Korsakov, who said Glazunov's musical progress did not increase day by day but hour by hour.   He began composing at age eleven and wrote his first symphony at age 16 in 1881 and it was premiered one year later.

Glazunov became a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1899 and went on to be director of the institution from 1905 until 1930.   After the Russian Revolution, Glazunov refused luxurious accommodations for himself from the new regime for the sake of the conservatory and the students there.  He took a personal interest in many of the students welfare because of the hard times after the revolution. One of the many students he taught and helped was Dmitri Shostakovich.  He remained in Russia until 1928, when he went on tour as a conductor and lecturer in Europe and the United States. He never went back to Russia but settled in France, dying there in 1936.

The Seasons was a ballet written by Glazunov in 1899. It is written in one act and four scenes and was choreographed by Marius Petipa. It was premiered in 1900 in St. Petersburg.  Glazunov uses a large orchestra for music that shows his talent for orchestral color and gift for melody. It is written in a lighter, more lyrical style than his symphonies and remains one of his more accessible and  popular compositions.

The Synopsis for the ballet:
Tableau 1A winter landscape
Winter is surrounded by his companions: Hoar-frost, Ice, Hail and Snow, who amuse themselves with a band of snowflakes. Two gnomes enter, and soon light a fire that causes all assembled to vanish.

Tableau 2A landscape covered with flowers
Spring dances with Zephyr, flower fairies, and enchanted birds. Upon feeling the heat of the sun, the assembly takes flight.

Tableau 3A landscape of flowing fields of wheat
Cornflowers and poppies revel in the light and warmth of the sun. They take rest after their exertion. Now Naiads appear, who bring water to refresh the growth, and the Spirit of Corn dances in thanksgiving. Satyrs and Fauns enter playing their pipes, and attempt to carry off the Spirit of the Corn, but she is rescued by the wind of Zephyr.

Tableau 4A landscape in Autumn
The Seasons take part in a glorious dance (the well-known "autumn bacchanale") while leaves from autumn trees rain upon their merriment.

ApotheosisThe Sable sky
Constellations of stars sparkle above the earth.

Glazunov's The Seasons : 

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