Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov (August 10,1865–March 21,1936) was a Russian composer of the late Russian Romantic period, music teacher, and conductor, who was born in Saint Petersburg, the son of a wealthy publisher. He began studying piano at the age of nine and began composing at 11. Mily Balakirev, formal leader of the nationalist group “The Five,” recognized Glazunov’s talent and brought his work to the attention of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov with a composition by the fifteen-year-old high-school student. Balakirev introduced him to Rimsky-Korsakov shortly afterwards, in December 1879. Rimsky-Korsakov premiered this work in 1882, when Glazunov was 16. Borodin and Stasov, among others, lavishly praised both the work and its composer. Rimsky-Korsakov taught Glazunov as a private student. By the spring of 1881, Rimsky-Korsakov considered Glazunov more of a junior colleague than a student.
More important than this was that among the Glazunov’s admirers was a wealthy timber merchant and amateur musician, Mitrofan Belyayev. Belyayev was introduced to Glazunov’s music by Anatoly Lyadov and would take a keen interest in the teenager’s musical future. Belyayev took Glazunov on a trip to Western Europe in 1884. Glazunov met Liszt in Weimar, where Glazunov’s First Symphony was performed. Also in 1884, Belyayev rented out a hall and hired an orchestra to play Glazunov’s First Symphony plus an orchestral suite Glazunov had just composed. Buoyed by the success of the rehearsal, Belyayev decided the following season to give a public concert of works by Glazunov and other composers. This project grew into the Russian Symphony Concerts, which were inaugurated during the 1886–1887 season. In 1885 Belyayev started his own publishing house in Leipzig, Germany, initially publishing music by Glazunov, Lyadov, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin at his own expense. Young composers started appealing for his help. To help select from their offerings, Belyayev asked Glazunov to serve with Rimsky-Korsakov and Lyadov on an advisory council. The group of composers that formed eventually became known at the Belyayev Circle.
Glazunov soon enjoyed international acclaim. He made his conducting debut in 1888. The following year, he conducted his Second Symphony in Paris at the World Exhibition. Nevertheless, he experienced a creative crisis in 1890–1891. He came out of this period with a new maturity. During the 1890s he wrote three symphonies, two string quartets and the ballet Raymonda. He was appointed conductor for the Russian Symphony Concerts in 1896. In March of that year he conducted the posthumous premiere of Tchaikovsky’s student overture The Storm. In 1897, he led the premiere of Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No 1. In 1899, Glazunov became a professor at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. By the time he was elected director of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in 1905, succeeding Rimsky-Korsakov, he was at the height of his creative powers. His best works from this period are considered his Eighth Symphony and Violin Concerto. This was also the time of his greatest international acclaim. He conducted the last of the Russian Historical Concerts in Paris on May 17, 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.
Despite the hardships he suffered during World War I and the ensuing Russian Civil War, Glazunov remained active as a conductor. He conducted concerts in factories, clubs and Red Army posts. After the end of World War I, he was instrumental in the reorganization of the Conservatory. Among his achievements were an opera studio and a students’ philharmonic orchestra. He played a prominent part in the Russian observation in 1927 of the centenary of Beethoven’s death, as both speaker and conductor. He remained director of the Conservatory until the revolutionary events of 1917, which culminated on November 7. His Piano Concerto No. 2 in B major, Op. 100, which he conducted, was premiered at the first concert held in Petrograd after that date. Tired of the Conservatory, he took advantage of the opportunity to go abroad in 1928 for the Schubert centenary celebrations in Vienna. He did not return. After he left Russia, he conducted an evening of his works in Paris in 1928. This was followed by engagements in Portugal, Spain, France, England, Czechoslovakia, Poland, the Netherlands, and the United States.
After this tour of Europe and the United States in 1928, he settled in Paris by 1929. In 1929, he conducted an orchestra of Parisian musicians in the first complete electrical recording of The Seasons. Also in 1929, at age 64, Glazunov married the 54-year-old Olga Nikolayevna Gavrilova (1875–1968). Olga’s daughter Elena Gavrilova was the soloist in the first Paris performance of his Piano Concerto No. 2 in B major, Op. 100. He subsequently adopted Elena, though she is sometimes referred to as his stepdaughter. Elena married the pianist Sergei Tarnowsky, who managed Glazunov’s professional and business affairs in Paris. Maximilian Steinberg ran the Conservatory in his absence until Glazunov finally resigned in 1930. In 1934, he wrote his Saxophone Concerto, a virtuoso and lyrical work for the alto saxophone. Glazunov died in Neuilly-sur-Seine (near Paris) at the age of 70 in 1936.
The following works by Glazunov are included in my collection:
Chopiniana, orchestral suite (1892).
From the Middle Ages suite, op. 79 (1902).
The Kremlin, symphonic picture op. 30 (1890).
Meditation for Violin and Orchestra, op. 32.
Overture No. 1 on Three Greek Themes in gm, op. 3 (1884).
Overture No. 2 on Three Greek Themes in DM, op. 6 (1884).
Poeme Epique, op. posth. (1934).
Poeme Lyrique, op. 12 (1887).
The Seasons Ballet, op. 67 (1899).
Serenade No. 1 in AM, op. 7 (1883).
Serenade No. 2 in FM, op. 11 (1884).
Triumphal March on the occasion of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago 1893, op. 40 (1892).
Violin Concerto, op. 82 (1904).