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Past Exhibition of the Month - August 2015

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Postcard photograph. Published by Breitkopf & Härtel, London, [c.1910].

Postcard photograph. Published by Breitkopf & Härtel, London, [c.1910].

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GLAZUNOV, Alexander Konstantinovich (b.St Petersburg, 10 August 1865; d.Paris, 21 March 1936)

Glazunov, the 150th anniversary of whose birth falls this month, is an important figure in Russian music, though of his numerous works only the Violin Concerto (1904) is regularly performed today.  The son of a distinguished book publisher and an accomplished pianist, he was something of a prodigy, studying composition with Rimsky-Korsakov from the age of 14 and having his First Symphony performed two years later under Balakirev (who called him 'the little Glinka').  It was the first two performances of this symphony which brought another vital force into Russian music history, in the shape of the millionaire philantropist Mitrofan Belaieff (1836-1904).  Belaieff, a passionate music-lover and amateur viola player, had recently retired from the timber business in which he had made his fortune and joined an amateur orchestra in St Petersburg conducted by Lyadov (and chaired by Borodin).  His resolve to promote and sponsor Glazunov and other young Russian composers led the establishement of a private chamber music series (the famous 'Fridays') in 1882, the Glinka Prize in 1884, the Russian Symphonic Concerts in 1885 and his own publishing house, the 'Belaieff Edition', in 1886.

The decorative chromolithographed title-pages which Belaieff commissioned for his publications must count as some of the most splendid in music-publishing history and we show a selection of the Glazunov examples here.  The history of the Belaieff Edition and its publications is fully documented in Richard Beattie Davis's magisterial study The Beauty of Belaieff (Bedford, 2008).

After Belaieff's death Glazunov's compositional output slackened somewhat.  In 1899 he had been appointed professor at the St Petersburg Conservatory and in 1905 was elected Director, a post which he held until 1930.  Widely travelled thoughout his life, in 1929 he settled in Paris, where his last works (up to a saxophone concerto, Op.109) were composed.

(Please click the thumbnails below to view larger image)

1re Ouverture sur trois thèmes grecs, Op.3.  Nouvelle édition. Leipzig, 1896. The first edition of this work and the two editions following were Belaieff's first publications.  The Leipzig address was chosen for copyright reasons. 1re Symphonie pour grand orchestre, Op.5. Leipzig, 1886. Second Overture on three Greek Themes, Op.6.  Leipzig, 1886.

2me Quatuor, Op.10. Leipzig, 1887. Elégie, Op.17.  Leipzig, 1889. 2 Morceaux pour violoncelle avec accompagnement d'orchestre, Op.20. Leipzig, 1890.

Prélude et 2 Mazurkas, Op.25. Leipzig, 1890. Quatuor Slave, Op.26. Leipzig, 1890. 2 Mélodies, Op.27. Leipzig, 1891.

Le Kremlin, Op.30. Tableau symphonique en trois parties. Leipzig, 1892. 3me Symphonie, Op.33. Leipzig, 1892. Suite pour quatuor d'archets, Op.35. Leipzig, 1895.

Triumphal March, Op.40. Leipzig, 1893. 4ème Symphonie, Op.48. Leipzig, 1894. Cortège solennel, Op.50.  Leipzig, 1895.

Scènes de Ballet, Op.52. Leipzig, 1895. Cinquième Symphonie, Op.55. Leipzig, 1896. Raymonda, Op.57. Leipzig, 1898.

Sixième Symphonie, Op.58. Leipzig, 1898. Les Saisons. Ballet, Op.67. Leipzig, 1901. Incidental music to the drama The King of the Jews, Op.95. St Petersburg, 1915.