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Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov was a Russian composer, music teacher, and conductor of the late Russian Romantic period. He served as director of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory between 1905 and 1928 and was instrumental in the reorganization of the institute into the Petrograd Conservatory, then the Leningrad Conservatory, following the Bolshevik Revolution. He continued heading the Conservatory until 1930, though he had left the Soviet Union in 1928 and did not return. The best-known student under his tenure during the early Soviet years was Dmitri Shostakovich.

Glazunov was significant in that he successfully reconciled nationalism and cosmopolitanism in Russian music. While he was the direct successor to Balakirev's nationalism, he tended more towards Borodin's epic grandeur while absorbing a number of other influences. These included Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestral virtuosity, Tchaikovsky's lyricism and Taneyev's contrapuntal skill. Younger composers such as Prokofiev and Shostakovich eventually considered his music old-fashioned, while also admitting he remained a composer with an imposing reputation, and a stabilizing influence in a time of transition and turmoil.

Works and influence
Phenomenal memory
Glazunov was acknowledged as a great prodigy in his field and, with the help of his mentor and friend Rimsky-Korsakov, finished some of Alexander Borodin's great works, the most famous being the Third Symphony and the opera Prince Igor, including the popular Polovtsian Dances. It is claimed that he reconstructed the overture from memory, having heard it played on the piano only once, although this claim is dubious, as the overture, with its involved counterpoint, is not playable by a single pianist. It is much more likely that, as attested by Shostakovich in "Testimony," that Glazunov simply composed the overture, giving all the credit to Borodin.


Glazunov's most popular works nowadays are his ballets The Seasons and Raymonda, some of his later symphonies, particularly the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth, the Polonaise from Les Sylphides, and his two Concert Waltzes. His Violin Concerto, which was a favorite vehicle for Jascha Heifetz, is still sometimes played and recorded. His last work, the Saxophone Concerto (1934), showed his ability to adapt to Western fashions in music at that time. The earlier rebellions of the experimental, serialist and minimalist movements passed him by and he never shied away from the polished manner he had perfected at the turn of the century.

Glazunov's musical development was paradoxical. He was adopted as an idol by nationalist composers who had been largely self-taught and, apart from Rimsky-Korsakov, were deeply distrustful of academic technique. Glazunov's first two symphonies could be seen as an anthology of nationalist techniques as practiced by Balakirev and Borodin; the same could be said for his symphonic poem Stenka Razin with its use of the folk song "Volga Boatmen" and orientalist practices much like those employed by The Five. By his early 20s he realized the polemic battles between academicism and nationalism were no longer valid. Although he based his compositions on Russian popular music, Glazunov's technical mastery allowed him to write in a sophisticated, cultured idiom. With his Third Symphony, he consciously attempted to internationalize his music in a manner similar to Tchaikovsky, to whom the piece is dedicated.

The Third Symphony was a transitional work. Glazunov admitted its composition caused him a great deal of trouble. With the Fourth Symphony, he came into his mature style. Dedicated to Anton Rubinstein, the Fourth was written as a deliberately cosmopolitan work by a Russian looking outward to the West, yet it remained unmistakably Russian in tone. He continued to synthesize nationalist tradition and Western technique in the Fifth Symphony. By the time Glazunov wrote his Seventh Symphony, his duties at the Conservatory had slowed his rate of composition. After his Eighth Symphony, his heavy drinking may have started taking a toll on his creativity, as well. He sketched one movement of a Ninth Symphony but left the work unfinished.

Glazunov wrote three ballets; eight symphonies and many other orchestral works; five concertos (2 for piano; 1 for violin; 1 for cello; 1 for saxophone); seven string quartets; two piano sonatas and other piano pieces; miscellaneous instrumental pieces; and some songs. He worked together with the choreographer Michel Fokine to create the ballet Les Sylphides". It was a collection of piano works by Frédéric Chopin, orchestrated by Glazunov. He was also given the opportunity by Serge Diaghilev to write music to The Firebird after Lyadov had failed to do so. Glazunov refused. Eventually, Diaghilev sought out the then-unknown Igor Stravinsky, who wrote the music.

Both Glazunov and Rachmaninoff, whose first symphony Glazunov supposedly had conducted so poorly at its premiere (according to the composer), were considered "old-fashioned" in their later years. In recent years, reception of Glazunov's music has become more favorable, thanks to extensive recordings of his complete orchestral works.

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