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8.572713 - GLIERE, R.: Duets with Cello (Complete) - 8 Pieces, Op. 39 / Ballad / 10 Duos / 12 Pieces, Op. 51 (Rummel, Eichhorn, Hulshoff, Korber)
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Reinhold Glière (1875–1956)
Complete Duets with Cello


Reinhold Moritsevich Glière was born Reinhold Ernst Glier on 30 December 1874 (Julian calendar) or on 11 January 1875 (Gregorian calendar) in Kiev. His father was the wind instrument maker Ernst Moritz Glier, from Klingenthal, and his mother Josephine was the daughter of the wind instrument maker Vincenz Kortschak. Early violin lessons with Adolf Weinberg and Otakar Ševčík in Kiev revealed his extraordinary musical gifts. From 1894 he studied the violin with Jan Hřímalý and composition with Anton Arensky and Alexander Taneyev at the Moscow Conservatory. In 1900 he graduated with a gold medal in composition and it was from about this time that he adopted the French spelling of his name usually used today. Numerous descendants of the Klingenthal family were, and still are, instrument makers or involved in the arts (including the painter Mike Glier) and are spread throughout the world.

From 1901 to 1913 Reinhold Glière taught at the Gnesin Institute in Moscow, where Sergey Prokofiev and Nikolay Myaskovsky were among his pupils. This period was interrupted only for conducting studies in Berlin (from 1905 to 1908) with Oskar Fried. Glière taught at the Kiev Conservatory when it was founded in 1913 and became its director the following year. In 1920 he became professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory, where he remained until his retirement in 1941. From 1938 to 1948 he was also chairman of the organising committee of the Soviet Union of Composers and helped with the “Soviet development” of the autonomous republics of Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. Highly decorated (among others the Order of Lenin, People’s Artist of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Order of the Red Flag of Work, Stalin Prize, Honorary Doctorate of Cultural Studies) Reinhold Glière died on 23 June 1956 in Moscow. He outlived his two most famous pupils Prokofiev and Myaskovsky by three and six years respectively.

Glière’s career might give the impression that he had been a political composer. In fact it seems that he was nonpolitical and was conservative as a musician. He played no part, or only a subordinate rôle, in the political cultural organizations of the young Soviet Union and was repeatedly criticised for his lack of interest in politics. His musical style is a mixture of Russian national harmonies and impressionism and while he shows no urge to be innovative in his compositions they are nevertheless astonishingly inventive.

From a cellist’s point of view Reinhold Glière is remarkably important. His Cello Concerto, Op 87, which dates from 1945/46, can be considered the first Soviet Russian cello concerto and, like so many others, it was dedicated to Mstislav Rostropovich, who was only nineteen at the time of its premiere. But Glière’s earliest work for cello and piano is the Ballade, Op 4, from 1902 which also exists in a version for cello and chamber orchestra and was dedicated to the original cellist of the Trio Russe, Joseph Press.

The Eight Duets for Violin and Cello, Op 39, dedicated to Boris Kaliushno, date from 1909 and so were composed after Glière’s return from Berlin and during his time as a teacher at the Gnesin Institute. His professional career at the time of the composition of the Duets (as well as the title of No 8—Study) might give the impression that they were works written for teaching purposes, but right from the first notes it is very clear that these pieces are far more than that and that they show his mastery of small forms.

The Ten Duets for Two Cellos, Op 53, dedicated to Rudolf Erlich, date from 1911 and so are one of the few original cycles for this delightful combination. While their form and harmony could not be called ground-breaking, Glière’s melodic richness and his skill, especially in his ability to make two string instruments sound like an orchestra (as for example in No 5), is unique.

Even before Glière undertook longer visits to Central Asia after the Revolution, in order to promote the national music of Russia, many of these small pieces display his interest in the folk-music of the east and of his own homeland. This trait comes out in the Twelve Album Leaves for Cello and Piano, Op 51 (especially in Nos 6, 7, 9 and 10) from 1910—perhaps a foretaste of what was to come in the Romances, Op 52, for soprano and piano which likewise have the character of folk-song.

Glière’s works include some forty compositions with no opus numbers, as well as a hundred numbered works, all written between 1898 and 1956, including the remarkable Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra, Op 82, of 1943, countless songs, choral works, four string quartets, three string sextets, three symphonies, ballets and symphonic poems. From today’s standpoint there are still many treasures to be unearthed.

Martin Rummel
English translation by David Stevens

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