Aleksander Konstantinovich Glazunov

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Glazunov, Aleksander Konstantinovich


Born July 29 (Aug. 10), 1865, in St. Petersburg; died Mar. 21, 1936, in Paris. Russian composer, conductor, music and public figure, and People’s Artist of the Republic (1922).

Glazunov studied composition under N. A. Rimsky-Korsakov. At 16 he wrote his First Symphony. His creative outlook was influenced by his association with M. A. Balakirev, A. P. Borodin, P. I. Tchaikovsky, and S. I. Taneev. Glazunov was one of the members of the Beliaev Circle. Beginning in 1888 he performed as a conductor, popularizing mainly the works of Russian composers. He made his foreign debut as a conductor in Paris in 1889. From 1899 he was a professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. In 1905 he supported the students’ protest against the reactionary actions of the conservatory’s administration and left the faculty. At the end of the year he returned to the conservatory and was chosen its director. In 1907 Oxford and Cambridge universities awarded Glazunov honorary doctorates in music. After the Great October Socialist Revolution he became rector of the Petrograd Conservatory and was an active participant in rebuilding music education. At the same time he engaged in extensive music educational activity in society at large. He was a conductor in workers’ clubs and Red Army units. From 1928 he lived abroad. During 1929-31 he undertook a concert tour of Europe and America, but illness forced him to terminate it. He died in Paris.

Glazunov was one of the most important of the Russian composers who carried on the traditions of the Russian Five and Tchaikovsky at the turn of the century. Symphonic works occupy the leading place in his creative works. He is the author of eight symphonies. Constructed in masterly fashion, these works contain monumental, epic elements and are imbued with the brilliant coloring of folklore. Glazunov’s music is distinguished by warmth, sincerity, clarity, and emotional balance. His bright, powerful, energetic Fifth Symphony (1895) is the work of a mature master. The Sixth Symphony (1896) and the Eighth Symphony (1906) are also among his best. Both of them are characterized by a dramatic spirit and profound philosophical meditation. Glazunov also wrote several programmatic pieces. Of these the most popular are the symphonic poem Sten’ka Razin (1885), which embodies images of spontaneous popular rebelliousness, and the suite From the Middle Ages (1902). Distinguished by vivid melodic expressiveness and brilliant exposition, the Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1904) is one of Glazunov’s best works. His ballet Raymonda (presented at St. Petersburg’s Mariinskii Theater in 1898) is widely known. In this work, following Tchaikovsky’s example, Glazunov tried to deepen the symphonic qualities of the ballet. Other ballets by him are Les Ruses d’amour (presented in 1900 at the Hermitage Theater in St. Petersburg) and The Seasons (presented in 1900 at the same theater). As the author of seven quartets, two sonatas and other works for piano, and art songs, Glazunov made a valuable contribution to Russian chamber music. He and Rimsky-Korsakov completed Borodin’s opera Prince Igor, which had been left unfinished at the time of the composer’s death. Glazunov sketched two parts of Borodin’s unfinished Third Symphony from memory, and he participated in the editing of M. I. Glinka’s works.


Pis’ma, stat’i, vospominaniia: Izbrannoe. Moscow, 1958.


Ossovskii, A. V. A. K. Glazunov. [St. Petersburg, 1907.]
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Derzhanovskii, V. A. K. Glazunov. Moscow, 1922.
Asafev, B. (Igor’ Glebov). Glazunov: Opyt kharakteristiki. Leningrad, 1924.
Glazunov: Issledovaniia, Materialy, Publikatsii, Pis’ma, vols. 1-2. Leningrad, 1959-60.
Ganina, M. A. K. Glazunov: Zhizn’ i tvorchestvo. Leningrad, 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.