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Alexander Glazunov

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Updated: 20.11.2003

In full Aleksandr Konstaninovich Glazunov, the major Russian symphonic composer of the generation that followed Tchaikovsky. Born July 29 [Aug. 10, New Style], 1865, St. Petersburg, Russia; died March 21, 1936, Paris, France

Glazunov's mother, a piano pupil of Mily Balakirev, took her obviously talented son to her teacher, and on his advice the boy in 1880 began study with Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov.

In 1882 Balakirev conducted Glazunov's First Symphony. A revised version of the piece was printed in 1886 by M.P. Belyayev, a millionaire timber merchant and founder of the famous Belyayev music-publishing firm that Glazunov later helped direct. Glazunov continued to compose, producing two string quartets, two overtures on Greek folk tunes, and the symphonic poem Stenka Razin.

In 1886 he finished his Second Symphony. At that time he was the recognised heir of the nationalist group and composed according to their principles; he also absorbed the influence of Franz Liszt, whom he visited in Weimar, Germany, in 1884. Other influences, notably Wagner's and Tchaikovsky's, were later evident.

Most of Glazunov's best works - the fourth, fifth, and sixth symphonies and his ballets Raymonda, Ruses d'amour, and Les Saisons ("The Seasons") - date from the 1890s.

He finished his Violin Concerto in A Minor in 1904 and last complete symphony, the eighth, in 1906. In 1905 he became director of the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he had taught since 1899.

He wrote few large-scale works after 1906: two piano concerti (1911 and 1917), two string quartets (1920 and 1930), the Concerto-Ballata for Cello and Orchestra (1931), and the Concerto for Saxophone, Flute, and Strings (1934).

After the Revolution of 1917 he remained at his post until 1928, when, feeling isolated, he left the Soviet Union.

After an unsuccessful tour of the United States (1929-30) he lived in Paris.

Related links:

Alexander Glazunov on Ballet Notes

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