GLAZUNOV:   Symphony No. 5 in B Flat, Op. 55.  Symphony No. 8 in E Flat, Op. 83
Moscow Symphony Orch/Alexander Anissimov, cond.
NAXOS 8.553660 )(B) (DDD)
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What began promisingly on Naxos as the complete orchestral canon of Aleksandr Glazunov—a sweetly lyrical performance of the Raymonda ballet and a very good one of The Seasons (both made in 1995) — has been uneven ever since, except for a likeable pairing of Symphonies 1 and 4, recorded during the same month as the two ballet scores. Throughout the series, now complete, Alexander Anissimov has led the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, of which he's been Chief Conductor since September 1997 (ditto the Irish National Symphony at Dublin since 1994). His last installment in the Symphony series, a coupling of Nos. 5 and 8, is a notch more involving than embalmed versions of 3 and 6, but performances of Glazunov need more than good intentions and to hold interest.

In Anissimov's Fifth and Eighth, only the finales have a needfully quickened pulse. Both works are indebted to Tchaikovsky — Glazunov was at table when Pyotr Ilyich drank the allegedly unpurified water that infected him with terminal typhus—but they lack memorable tunes. The younger composer's command of symphonic structures is superior, but even that (plus excellent orchestration) cannot make up for merely generic Russian subject matter.

There is charm in the Mendelssohnian scherzo of No. 5, but like everything else it's second-hand or second-rate -- and perfunctorily recorded at that in January 1997 by Vitaly Ivanov for producer Edvard Shaknazarian ("Betta Inc"follows his name, separated only by a comma). The best disc in Naxos' symphony series remains the coupling of 1+ 4, with 2+7 rating an honorable mention.

R.D.