Glazunov and Shostakovich Violin Concertos

Sasha Rozhdestvensky is considered one of Russia’s finest young violinists. Yehudi Menuhin pronounced him to be “one of the most talented and refined violinists of his generation”, while the legendary violinist Ivry Gitlis said of him: ‘He belongs to the great line of outstanding artists. His approach and relationship to music and the violin is intense, highly sensitive and intelligent.’ Sasha studied at the Central Music School in Moscow, the Moscow Conservatory, the Paris Conservatoire and the Royal College of Music in London with Dr. Felix Andrievsky, Zinaida Gilels, Maya Glezarova and Gérard Poulet. He plays several violins, among which are a Guarneri del Gesù and a Stradivari loaned to him by the Stradivari Society. He recently became an ambassador for the Stradivari Society.

Gennady Rozhdestvensky, one of the greatest conductors of the day, was born in Moscow in 1931. He studied the piano with Lev Oborin and conducting with his father, Nikolaï Anosov, at the Moscow Conservatoire. At the unusually early age of 20, still a student at the Conservatoire, he was engaged at the Bolshoi Theatre where he made his début conducting Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Sleeping Beauty. His was to be a long term relationship with the Bolshoi: he became their principal conductor between 1964 and 1970, and in 2000 was appointed their General Music Director. At the Bolshoi he has conducted more than thirty operas and ballets, and gave the world premiere of Khatchaturian’s ballet Spartacus, and the Russian premiere of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. From 1956 on he toured regularly with the Bolshoi ballet in Europe, Asia and America.



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Gennady Rozhdestvensky is undoubtedly one of the greatest conductors of his generation, but his greatest achievements have always been with orchestras and soloists with whom he has worked closely for years. What better scenario, then, than an orchestra he founded and his own son as violin soloist. The greatest strength of these interpretations is their coherency, the fact that every player is clearly working towards a common goal. The fact they are all Russian helps, and that Russian quality of string playing is common to soloist and orchestra.

Putting the Glazunov ahead of the Shostakovich is curious move. Surely the Shostakovich is the more famous, and (dare I say) the better work. There is an interesting episode in the coda of the Glazunov, where the orchestra strikes up what sounds like a military march. At the time (1904), Mahler was about the only composer introducing such external material into his work, and when Shostakovich does so a few decades later, Mahler's legacy is what initially springs to mind. But perhaps Glazunov deserves some credit too, and perhaps the programme for this disc has been arranged to draw attention to the fact.

This is a fine recording, and the Shostakovich in particular really shines when presented in a performance of this standard. I can't help the feeling that the Glazunov is less deserving of the attentions of such fine musicians, but I know there are many who would disagree with me on that. On the strength of this outing the Rozhdestvensky father and son pairing makes a formidable musical team. Here's hoping that many more Russian violin concerto recordings are to follow.

 - Gavin Dixon -

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