by Michael Bowen and Leah Sottile
Jose Serebrier & amp; Royal Scottish Natl. Orchestra
Glazunov: Symphony No. 5 / The Seasons FIVE STARS
Imagine being asked to write dance music for St. Petersburg's Imperial Ballet when all the previous guy had done was Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker.
Yet in The Seasons, Alexander Glazunov doesn't simply play second fiddle to Tchaikovsky. The one-act ballet (1900) offers many highlights: the mischievous bassoons in the "Hail" section of "Winter"; the exuberant waltz of "Spring"; the la-dee-dah-dah flutes and swirling violins of the famous "Dance of the Cornflowers and Poppies" in "Summer." And while the stately "Bacchanale" theme memorably dominates "Autumn," what lingers after repeated listenings is the responsiveness of the Scots' strings during the lush lullaby melodies of the "Petit Adagio."
In the Adagio of the Fifth Symphony (1895), after foreboding horns interrupt the rich orchestration of the theme that enters midway through, Glazunov unites the brass and string sections to achieve a moving resolution. The final movement is a rondo that starts out energetically and then, with the propulsion of the trumpets, accelerates even more.
By resurrecting a symphony other than the Fourth, Jose Serebrier demonstrates that Glazunov is more than just a lesser Tchaikovsky. -- Michael Bowen
Jesu FIVE STARS
You might mistake Jesu for just
another one of those dreamlike, opiate bands at first listen. Granted, their musical influences are crystal clear here -- but what Jesu does on its new self-titled Hydra Head record is hardly unoriginal. This band's talent lies in the fact that they do things that other bands do -- they just do them better. Here Justin Broadrick pensively echoes behind lo-fi masterpieces with direct, sympathetic vocals. It's airy soundtrack music reminiscent of Jesus and Mary Chain. Except Jesu takes that same sort of sound, distorts it, roughs it up and rubs dirt in its face. Later on, you come to understand how Jesu takes ambient, melodic tunes and slowly builds them into their own sonic and really stoned version of stoner rock. The album climaxes late -- with the heaviest song, "man/woman" coming in when the record is nearly over. The entire record crescendos to that point -- creating what seems like a musical interpretation of the build-up before a mental breakdown -- and the results are fantastic. -- Leah Sottile
Publication date: 2/03/05