About this work
Known as a conservative, Glazunov rarely, if ever, strayed in his vast output from the mold that tag denotes. His keyboard and orchestral works are especially Romantic in temperament, nineteenth century in outlook. His Piano Concerto No. 1, dating to 1910-1911, came about near the beginning of an artistic crisis, a time when his artistry started to decline owing to his taxing work as director of the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Yet the Piano Concerto No. 1 is generally considered one of his strongest compositions from this period, a superior effort to the later Piano Concerto No. 2 (1917). The Piano Concerto No. 1 is cast in two movements, the first an Allegro Moderato and the concluding panel a lengthy theme and variations that is really the center of gravity here. The work's form is borrowed from that of Beethoven's last piano sonata, Op. 111, whose two-movement (Allegro and Theme and Variations) structure would also inspire Prokofiev in his Symphony No. 2 (1924-1925). But Glazunov takes a different approach in this lush, richly Romantic work, neither scaling the transcendental heights of Beethoven nor attempting the "iron-and-steel" extravagance of Prokofiev. The concerto's first movement is colorful and tuneful, the theme and variations lush and brilliantly crafted, but neither attempts to etch out an especially individual character. It should not seem surprising that Glazunov, who had spent much time in England in 1907, divulges a somewhat Elgarian manner in his orchestration, especially of the second movement. Still, the work is not imitative and if it is not a major accomplishment, it is quite a worthwhile effort.