Five Novelettes for String Quartet, Op.15
"I highly recommend Alexander Glazunov's Five Novelettes for String Quartet, especially so to amateurs."—–Wilhelm Altmann writing in his Handbook for String Quartet Players
Glazunov wrote the Five Novelettes during the mid 1880s, originally giving them the invocative title of `Suite'. At the suggestion of his friend Hans von Bulow, the famous pianist and conductor, Glazunov changed the name to Novelettes. The first of the pieces, Alla spagnuola (in the Spanish style) opens with plucked notes of the cello, in accompaniment to the first melody, with its characteristic Spanish rhythm. The trio section wanders away from Spain altogether and one hears the voice of Borodin. An Orientale follows. It, too, starts with the plucked accompanying notes of the cello, to which the viola adds cross-rhythms, while the violins bring forth a dancing theme over a bagpipe like drone. In the middle section, the highly evocative viola solo conjures up the bazaars and market places of central asia. The third movement, Interludium in modo antico has distinct allusions to the Russian Orthodox service, both in its tonality and the solemn mood. Next comes a Valse (Waltz), which provides considerable contrast. The characteristic accompanying rhythm is first established by the cello and viola. Within the waltz, contrast is created by changes of key and mood and the creatiion of increasing excitement before the recapitulation. The last of the Novelettes, Alla ungherese (in the Hungarian style), again begins with pizzicato in the cello which provides the opening rhythm. Against this, the first violin states the first Hungarian theme. There is a contrasting central section, Andantino sostenuto, Capriccioso, strongly suggestive of the mode of violin playing by gypsies.
Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936) was born in St. Petersburg, the son of a wealthy book publisher. He began studying piano at the age of nine and started composing not long after. It was Mili Balakirev (founder of the Russian nationalist group “The Mighty Five”) who brought Glazunov to the attention of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. This was in 1879. Korsakov, who immediately recognized the boy’s talent, took him on as a private student. Glazunov’s progress was so fast that within two years, Korsakov considered Glazunov more of a junior colleague than a student. Between 1895 and 1914, Glazunov was widely regarded, both inside and out, as Russia’s greatest living composer. His works include symphonies, ballets, operas and seven string quartets in addition to various instrumental sonatas.
Surprisingly, this work, long popular at chamber music concerts in Russia, has enjoyed little airing in the West. Sure to please audiences, any one of its fine movements can be used as an encore.
Parts & Score: $31.95