Russian composer Aleksandr Glazunov is known for having successfully bridged the music of the two 19th century Russian schools of composition; he combined the academic with the cosmopolitan. Though he leaned toward the lyricism of Tchaikovsky, he is also said to have been the “heir to Balakirev’s nationalism.” His work ended the battle between the two schools of thought and created a new Russian style.
Glazunov was born in 1865 into a wealthy merchant family in St Petersburg. His father was a successful book publisher and his mother a talented pianist who encouraged his musical development. At the age of nine, Glazunov started piano lessons and at the age of eleven he followed composition lessons with Elenkovsky. His immense talent was apparent and, after a meeting with Balakirev in 1879, was recommended to Rimsky-Korsakov, a member of “The Five” also known as the “Mighty Handful,” for composition lessons. Rimsky-Korsakov taught Aleksandr the theory of composition, harmony, and accompaniment. The lessons were incredibly successful. Rimsky-Korsakov even said that Glazunov progressed “not from day to day but from hour to hour.” These lessons lasted less than two years, as he was able to learn so rapidly. The two formed a lifelong friendship during this time. At the age of 16, Glazunov had already completed his First Symphony (1881-82), which was premiered in 1882 under the direction of Balakirev. The symphony was later conducted by Rimsky-Korsakov at the Moscow Exhibition. Later in the same year, Glazunov completed his First String Quartet (1882).