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8.550858 - GLIERE: Symphony No. 3, 'Il'ya Muromets'
Reinhold Glière (1875 - 1956)
Reinhold Glière (Reyngol'd Moritsevich Glier), a Soviet composer of Belgian descent, was born in Kiev in 1875, the son of a maker of wind instruments. He played the violin and wrote music at home and studied for three years at the Kiev Conservatory before entering the Moscow Conservatory in 1894. There he studied the violin with Hrimaly, and composition with Taneyev, taking lessons in harmony from Arensky and his pupil Konyus and in orchestration from Ippolitov-Ivanov. He graduated in 1900 with a one-act opera-oratorio Earth and Heaven, based on Byron.
Glière's first employment was as a teacher at the Gnesin Music School, and he was to spend the summer holidays of 1902 and 1903 as tutor to the eleven-year- old Prokofiev. For two years from 1905 he studied conducting with Oscar Fried in Berlin, making his first appearance as a conductor in Russia in 1908, while his compositions continued to make a favourable impression. In 1913 he returned to Kiev to teach the composition class at the Conservatory, of which he became director the following year. His former pupil Prokofiev was to appear as soloist in Kiev in his own first piano concerto under Glière's direction in 1916.
From 1920 until his retirement in 1941 Glière taught composition at the Conservatory in Moscow. He showed particular interest in the music of the various ethnic minorities of the Soviet Union, making a detailed study of the music of Azerbaijan that bore fruit in his opera Shakh-Senem, written in 1924 and performed in Russian in Baku three years later and in Azerbaijani in 1934. His musicological investigations extended to Uzbekistan and other Soviet republics, while the more familiar music of the Ukraine provided him with another native source of inspiration.
During his career Glière occupied a number of official positions. In the early years of the Revolution he headed the music section of the Moscow Department of Popular Education and was Chairman of the organizing committee of the Union of Soviet Composers from 1938 until 1948. His work was officially recognised by various state awards, including the title of People's Artist, bestowed in 1938. He died in Moscow in 1956.
As a composer Glière was heir to the Russian romantic tradition, something that brought him official praise in 1948 when the music of Prokofiev and Shostakovich was condemned. In particular his ballet music proved popular. The Red Poppy, later known as The Red Flower, to obviate misunderstanding, satisfied political choreographic demands, and became a well known part of ballet repertoire from 1926 onwards, and the later ballet-score The Bronze Horseman, completed in 1949, retains a place in Soviet ballet repertoire.
Glière completed his third symphony in 1911, choosing to base it on the legend of Il'ya Muromets, the subject of ancient Russian epic. Il'ya Muromets is described as the son of a peasant and appears in a number of early Russian poems, to be identified, it is thought, with the pagan god Pyerun, but eventually absorbed into Christian tradition. One group of Russian epics, or byliny, is concerned with the older heroes or bogatyri, of which Il'ya Muromets and Svyatogor are among the most important. The former, remarkable among other things as the son of a peasant, was weak, without the use of his legs, for the first 33 years of his life, but strength came to him by a miracle, when two passing travellers, wandering pilgrims, gave him a draught of honey. His exploits in the service of Vladimir Fair Sun, to be identified either with the historical St. Vladimir, the first Christian ruler of Kiev, or with a later prince, Vladimir Monomakh, were remarkable in wars against pagan enemies, much assisted, in one century or the other, by a horse that could fly over the land. Of uncertain temper, in anger he once destroyed the domes and spires of the churches of Kiev, but when death approached he built a cathedral in Kiev and when he died his body was turned to stone, and so remains to this day, as the epics tell us.
The symphony opens with a slow and evocative introduction, a horn call piercing the mists of medieval Russia, as excitement mounts, the hero springs to life, riding his wonderful horse to find the bogatyr Svyatogor, whom he greets
respectfully. The two leap on their horses and ride a long time over the Holy Mountains, taking pleasure on their journey in heroic games. They find a large coffin in which Svyatogor lays himself and cannot be raised from its depths. Before he dies he gives wise counsel to Il’ya, who receives the strength of the dead hero and rides on to Kiev.
Solovey the Brigand lives in the forest, sheltered in a grove of seven oak-trees. He whistles like a nightingale and sends out fierce cries, and all the men in his country lie dead. Three girls help to lure his victims to their doom. When he hears Il'ya Muromets approaching, Solovey whistles and utters his harsh cries, but the hero draws his bow and shoots a shaft of glowing iron, piercing the brigand's right eye. He ties Solovey to his stirrup and drags him to the palace of Prince Vladimir. The movement starts with an eerie string figure, and follows in general the traditional story, moving from the sinister to the lyrical, before dramatic action intervenes once more.
The third movement is set at the court of Prince Vladimir, known as Fair Sun, in a scherzo. The Prince is giving a feast for his nobles and the bogatyrs. Approaching the palace gates, Il'ya Muromets bids Solovey whistle and utter his harsh cries, the roof of the palace trembles, and the nobles fall down in fear, except forVladimir, who remains standing. Il'ya cuts off Solovey's head and is welcomed by Vladimir as a knight at his table.
The longest of the four movements deals with the brave exploits of Il'ya Muromets against the enemies of Christian Kiev, led by Batygha the Wicked. He fights against Oudalaya Polyenitsa for twelve days and nights, beheading him and carrying his severed head back on a lance. Other enemies arise, two warriors who increase in number as each one falls. In flight Il'ya Muromets and the bogatyrs are turned to stone, and this is the reason for the absence of bogatyrs today.
Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
In 1962 he was appointed music director and principal conductor of the Dallas Symphony, and in 1970 he became associate conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony. His guest conducting credentials include the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York, Lisbon's Golden Festival, the Paris Opera and orchestras including Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and the National Symphony. His international appearances have included Amsterdam, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong and Mexico. His recording of Glière's Symphony No.3 in B Minor, Op. 42 with the Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava) is also available on the Marco Polo label.
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