Alexander Glazunov, classical music composer

Alexander Glazunov image

Alexander Glazunov


The son of a wealthy publisher, Alexnader Glazunov was born on August 10, 1865 in Saint Petersburg. He began studying the piano when was nine years old and composing just two years later. He was seen as a prodigy, possessing a memory capable of remembering entire pieces of music at just one listening. His efforts in composition soon brought him to the attention of Mily Balakirev, who had once been the titular head of the nationalistic group known as the "The Five." Impressed with the teenager's work, Balakirev took one of Glazunov's compositions to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, who also recognized the young lad's talent and premiered the work in 1882. This performance brought Glazunov the praise of Borodin and Stasov.

In December 1879, Glazunov was introduced to Rimsky-Korsakov and began taking composition lessons from him. He progressed rapidly in his studies, so much so that Rimsky-Korsakov began to look on him as a young colleague instead of a student. With his growing skill and reputation, Glazunov began to draw the admiration of Mitrofan Belyayev, a wealthy timber merchant and amateur musician. Belyayev took a strong interest in the composer's future and in 1884 took him on trip though Western Europe, during which he met Franz Liszt in Weimar. In the same year, Belyayev, at his own expense, rented out a concert hall and hired an orchestra to perform Glazunov's First Symphony and a recently composed orchestral suite. The concert was a success and became the inspiration for the Russian Symphony Concerts, a series of concerts that began in 1886 to help promote the works of young Russian composers. In 1885, Belyayev also started his own publishing house, with his own money, in Leipzig, publishing music by Glazunov, Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin.

With the patronage of Belyayev, Glazunov was soon enjoying success on the international stage. He reached maturity as a composer in the 1890s, producing many of his best works during that decade, including his ballets The Seasons  and Raymonda, and his Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Symphonies. Having made his conducting debut in 1888, he premiered his own Second Symphony in Paris at the World Exhibition the succeeding year. He was was appointed conductor for the Russian Symphony Concerts in 1896, and three years later became a professor at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. After the turn of the century, he reached the summit of his career. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution in 1905, he became the director of the Conservatory. He also received honorary Doctor of Music degrees from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

As director of the Conservatory, Glazunov did much to improve the curriculum and standards for its students and fought to keep the institution's autonomy after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. While he established a working relationship with the new socialist regime, Glazunov's conservatism came under attack. He saw the progressive demands being made by students as detrimental to the integrity and quality of the Conservatory. Using the Schubert centenary celebrations in Vienna as an excuse, Glazunov was able to leave the Soviet Union in 1928. He did not return to his homeland and eventually resigned his directorship in 1930.

During 1928, Glazunov toured Europe and the United States and settled in Paris the following year. By this time, however, Glazunov's music was being viewed as old-fashioned against the rise of modernist composers such as Debussy and Stravinsky. Glazunov greatly lamented the direction modern music was taking and even wondered if his, as well as Rimsky-Korsakov's, efforts had unintentionally sparked many of the new practices he condemned. On March 21, 1936, Glazunov died in Neuilly-sur-Seine near Paris.

Composer Title Date Action
Alexander Glazunov Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 82 05/18/2009 Play Add to playlist
Alexander Glazunov Valse D-major Op.42/3 07/09/2010 Play Add to playlist
Alexander Glazunov Meditation 02/21/2009 Play Add to playlist
Alexander Glazunov Chant du ménestrel, Op. 71 05/12/2012 Play Add to playlist
Alexander Glazunov Concert Waltz no. 1 in D Major 09/19/2013 Play
Alexander Glazunov Saxophone Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 109 04/29/2014 Play Add to playlist
Alexander Glazunov Selections from Saxophone Quartet, Op. 109 11/03/2017 Play Add to playlist