Donald Macleod explores Glazunov's final years, when he was seen as a great man from a bygone age.
Described as the "Last of the Mohicans", Aleksandr Glazunov was a composer of immense stature, who as Director of the St Petersburg Conservatoire, protected his students during revolutionary events in Russia.
By the start of the First World War, Glazunov was feeling very out of touch. His friends Belyayev, Rimsky-Korsakov and Lyadov had all died, and his music was seen by younger generations as old fashioned. One student, Shostakovich, described Glazunov as the last of the Mohicans. This period in Russia was dangerous, especially for people like Glazunov, as he was a member of the minor nobility. He and his mother found themselves living in two rooms, with little heating and little to eat, and by this point he was dependent upon alcohol. It was during these miserable years for Glazunov that he composed his romantic Second Piano Concerto.
Glazunov was still active on behalf of his students at the St Petersburg Conservatoire, shielding them from political harm such as anti-Semitism. However, the strains of those turbulent times and his poor living conditions were taking their toll. Although in 1922 he was named Peoples Artist, and awarded better living conditions, his response was that the Conservatoire needed more wood to keep his students warm. By 1928 Glazunov was fully exhausted. He left for the Schubert centenary in Vienna and never returned to Russia. He launched a conducting career, touring Europe and going into a studio to record his ballet The Seasons. It was in Paris, 1936, that Glazunov died. His remains were transferred back to Russia in 1972.
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