About this Recording
8.223675 - GLIERE: Bronze Horseman / Shakh-Senem / Gyul'sara

Reinhold Glière (1875–1956)
Bronze Horseman • Shakh-Senem • Gyul’sara


Reinhold Glière (Reyngol’d Moritsevich Glier), a Ukrainian 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 completed his studies in 1900 with a one-act opera-oratorio after Byron, Zemlya i nebo (“Earth and Heaven”).

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 Russian 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 in the following year. In 1916 his former pupil Prokofiev appeared as soloist in Kiev in his own first piano concerto under the direction of Glière.

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, commissioned in 1923 and completed the following year. The opera was performed in Russian in Baku three years later, followed by staging with an Azerbaijani translation 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 organising committee of the Union of Soviet Composers from 1938 unti11948. 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 followed 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, to avoid the connotation of opium, as The Red Flower, satisfied political choreographic demands and became a well known part of ballet repertoire from 1926 onwards, while the later ballet The Bronze Horseman, completed in 1949, also retained its place in Soviet repertoire.

The extended overture to the opera Shakh-Senem makes very considerable use of melodic material of Azerbaijani origin, but presented in the manner of Rimsky-Korsakov, with colourful orchestration and in a form removed from its origin, while a Russian Sheherazade lurks not far away, joined by Polovtsian dancers. Glière, here as elsewhere, is exploring a vein of exoticism that had attracted his nationalist predecessors, notably Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin. Shakh-Senem is of local importance as the first work of its kind in Azerbaijan.

The music-drama Gyul’sara, written in 1936, also relies on melodic material from a similar source, this time from Uzbekistan and suited to its subject. In 1949 it was transformed into an opera in collaboration with Sadikov, with performances in Tashkent.

In The Bronze Horseman, first staged by the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad in March 1949, Glière returned to a very Russian subject. With choreography for the Kirov by Rostislav Zakharov, decor by Mikhail Bobyshov and a libretto based on the original Pushkin poem by Petr Abolimov, the ballet tells the story, set in St Petersburg, of Yevgeny and his beloved Parasha, who meet and fall in love. Parasha is drowned in the disastrous floods of 1824, and Yevgeny goes mad, believing that the statue of Peter the Great, the Bronze Horseman of the title, is pursuing him. Finally he falls, lifeless. In the first production the part of Yevgeny was taken by Konstantin Sergeyev and that of Parasha by Natalya Dudinskaya. The original story in Pushkin is conveyed by implication, with Parasha making only an oblique appearance. The ballet is much more explicit in its retelling of Pushkin’s poem. The present excerpts include music for Yevgeny and Parasha and the lyric scene, followed by a dance scene.

Glière’s Heroic March, originally scored for military band, was written for the Buryiat-Mongolian Soviet Socialist Association in 1936, one of a number of such compositions designed for official celebrations of one sort or another, here making appropriate use of suitable thematic material, finally of Soviet origin.

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