Reinhold GLIERE
The Glière Orchestral Collection
CD 1
Symphony No. 3 in B minor, Op. 42 Ilya Muromets (1911) [78:08]
CD 2
Symphony No. 2 in C minor, Op. 25 (1907) [45:54]
The Zaporozhy Cossacks, Op. 64 (1921) [18:06]
CD 3
Symphony No. 1 in E flat, Op. 8 (1900) [34:18]
Suite from The Red Poppy, Op. 70 (1927) [26:14]
CD 4
Suite from The Bronze Horseman (1949) [46:14]
Horn Concerto, Op. 91 (1950) [23:55]
CD 5
Overture: Gyul’sara (1936) [16:58]
Concert Waltz, Op. 90 [5:59]
Overture: Shakh-Senem (1925) [15:57]
Ballad, Op. 4, arr. Derzhanovsky [5:43]
Overture on Slavonic Themes [9:42]
Heroic March for the Buryiat-Mongolian ASSR, Op. 71 (1936) [11:12]
Overture: Holiday at Ferghana, Op. 75 (1940) [9:05]
Peter Dixon (cello) Richard Watkins (horn) BBC Philharmonic/Sir Edward Downes, Vassily Sinaisky (CD 5)
rec. Manchester 1991-96.
Full track-list at end of review
CHANDOS CHAN106795X [5 CDs: 78:08 + 64:09 + 60:40 + 70:16 + 75:30]

Gliere's reputation rests on some ballet music - principally The Red Poppy - and the epic Ilya Mouramets Symphony (No. 3). The latter has been recorded by a range of distinguished conductors. Ormandy and Stokowski tackled it in cut versions. Unicorn let Harold Farberman loose on it in a very full and languorous early hi-fi digital version back in the very late 1970s. It has been reissued on Regis. There have also been recordings by Leon Botstein, Nathan Rachlin, Donald Johanos, Yoav Talmi and Herman Scherchen.

Gliere was no slouch when it came to producing music and while listening to these five discs you can, at times, catch a sense of the 'conveyor belt' the predominant impression is of great craft and a truly engaging character.

Mouramets has some of the fragrance of early orchestral Scriabin say, the six movement First Symphony. Mix in an opulent dash of Khachaturian and you have 90% of the aural picture. The brass benches – crowded benches – take command with an slowly epic Scriabinesque rearing up. The third movement has its common mien with The Firebird with a fantastic brooding iridescence. The next is not short on Rimskian brilliance and dance redolent of Antar with a splash of Borodin and a glowing broad melody. The finale is something of an ice storm yet more unbuttoned, lolloping and uncorseted. It is ultimately looser and within this looseness links to themes in first two movements. This is an extravagant and ultimately garrulous symphony which Downes indulges to the full. If you were being uncharitable you might think of a sort of extended Russian Easter Festival but you are soon brought up short by so many superbly crafted coups including at one point a swooning ecstasy of birdsong.

The Second Symphony is accommodated on disc 2. It launches with bravado deploying a bold horn-fronted gallop. It’s striking stuff but with a tendency to hold on to ideas for slightly too long and a slack grip on the long symphonic stride. Once again there are some fantastic wispy passages contrasted with a Tchaikovskian pulse mixed with Miaskovsky. It’s a substantial and confident piece. The performing temperature and the bloom in the sound and possessed playing places it above the Third. The Zhaporozhy Cossacks features a stirring final hymn but has nothing as arresting as the start of the Second Symphony. Isolated competition in the Symphony includes versions by Yondani Butt and the Philharmonia on ASV CD DCA 1129, by Zdenek Macal on Delos DE3178, by the composer in 1950 on Consonance 813002 and by Keith Clark on Naxos 8.550899 (1995) originally Marco Polo 8.223106. The daisy-fresh First Symphony is on CD3 alongside the diverting Red Poppy suite.
The fourth CD starts with another ballet suite – this time from The Bronze Horseman. The first movement reeks of Meistersinger while the second carries traces of Borodin. There is a proud and dainty grace about this music which places it as a successor to Glazunov's finest ballet scores. The BBCPO play idiomatically. One might wonder if parts of its grand statuary might easily have read across into a National Socialist rally surrounded by Albert Speer's 'kolossal' architecture. Even so you can't help falling for its awesome overstatement. The Horn Concerto sings sturdily and in Germanic romantic accents sounding somewhat like the Schoeck and Strauss (No. 1). In the first movement a striking melody is rollingly taken by Watkins. The music becomes more Slavonic in the final movement. though this soon dispels in deference to a flavour of Teutonic ‘trauer’ music.

The fifth and last disc comprises a totally unhackneyed selection overtures and orchestral works. The Concert Waltz is eruptive in the manner of the two Glazunov examples. It has none of Prokofiev’s psychological collisions. The Ballad (an early piece) is akin to the Glazunov and Bridge salon pieces. The Overture on Slavonic Themes is strangely Beethovenian (2.01), in parts, fugal (5.36) - broadly romantic but finally uncompelling. Gyul'Sara is the longest piece on the disc at just over 16 minutes. You need to think in terms of a modernised Russian Easter Festival Overture with oriental accents, a central fugue and some simply magnificent brass writing out of En Saga. Did Basil Poledouris hear this before writing the music for the Conan films? Shakh-Senem is Arabian (try 6.02) in the manner of Rimsky's Antar, Balakirev's Tamar and Borodin's Prince Igor. Barbaric grandeur and exoticism strike sparks off each other (7.30). The Heroic March has an abrasive tread. There is some great dizzy contour work for the horn choir at 3.14. It’s all well worth hearing and, as David Nice says in his far from euphoric notes, this work is closer to a tone poem than to a gormless march. To close proceedings there’s ten minutes worth of Holiday at Ferghana. More exotic Middle-Eastern markets, camels and bazaars. Thank Heavens there is none of the 'bizarre' cheapskate atmosphere of the pier-end band. Instead the music has an authentic snap and finger-cymbal sparkle. If anything the linkage is with the sincere exoticism achieved by Biarent and Schmitt.

There is plenty more Gliere to come too. Let us not slight unheard on the basis of the titles alone the overture Twenty Five Years of the Red Army 1943, the marching song Hitler's End Will Come, Victory Overture 1944, the Fantasy for the Komintern-Festival - for military wind orchestra (1924), March of the Red Army for wind orchestra (1924), Festive Overture for the 20th Anniversary of the October-Revolution (1937), The friendship of the peoples - Overture on the 5th anniversary of the Soviet Constitution (1941), the Glory of the Soviet Army Cantata, the ballet Chrysis, the Trizna symphonic poem, the Imitation of Jezekiel - symphonic poem for narrator and orchestra (1921) not to mention the operas Rachel from the 1920s and Leila and Mejnun from 1940.

The notes from the original discs are now gathered into one booklet. They are pretty extensive and the author is David Nice with one contribution from John Humphries. The text is packed with rewarding details and the depth of knowledge of the Soviet context is manifest.

There is a rather good Gliere website which is well worth looking at.

I wonder if – beyond the unrecorded Gliere - there is any chance of hearing the numerous Lev Knipper symphonies, Ivan Dzerzhinsky’s piano concertos and operas and Yuri Shaporin’s profoundly impressive trilogy of choral-orchestral works? The world of Russian music collectors waits to snap up the first commercial recordings of these works.

There is no competition for this Gliere set: none whatsoever. The price is irresistible. The whole thing is done with Chandos style which delivers elite results in this voluptuously lyrical and vividly imagined music.

Rob Barnett

Full tracklist
Reinhold GLIÈRE (1875-1956)
Orchestral Collection
Symphony No.3, Op.42 ‘Ilya Muromets’ in B minor
I Wandering Pilgrims: Ilya Muromets and Svyagotor. 1. Andante sostenuto [7:55]; 2. Allegro risoluto – Tranquillo misterioso – Tempo I [14:58]; 3. II Nightingale the Robber. Andante [21:33]; 4. III At the Court of Vladimir the Mighty Sun. Allegro – Andante – Allegro [7:10]; IV The Heroic Deeds and Petrification of Ilya Muromets 5. Allegro tumultuoso – Tranquillo – Giocoso [11:47]; 6. Poco meno – Maestoso solenne [14:30] Total time: [78:08] BBC Philharmonic: Sir Edward Downes
Symphony No.2, Op.25 in C minor
1. I Allegro pesante [14:03]; 2. II Allegro giocoso [7:19]; 3. III Andante con variatzioni: Andante; Variazione I. Poco più mosso; Variazione II. Vivace; Varizione III. Andante; Variazione IV. Scherzando; Variazione V. Allegro; Variazione VI. Presto; Coda. Tempo di comincio [13:00]; 4 IV. Allegro vivace [11:14]
The Zaporozhy Cossacks, Op.64
5. Introduction [3:25]; 6. The Cossacks write the letter, then read it [1:11]; 7. They laugh [2:11]; 8. They dance and rejoice [9:12]; 9. Finale [2:07] Total time: [64:09] BBC Philharmonic: Sir Edward Downes
Symphony No.1, Op.8 in E flat major
1. Andante – Allegro – Andante [12:26]; 2. Allegro molto vivace [6:56]; 3. Andante [8:02]; 4. Finale. Allegro [6:44]
Suite from ‘The Red Poppy’, Op.70
5. I Heroic Coolie Dance. Allegro giocoso [3:47]; II Scene and Dance. 6. i) Scene. Andante [6:39]; 7. ii) Dance. Allegretto [1:48]; 8. III Chinese Dance. Allegro moderato [1:52]; 9. IV. Phoenix. Andante [5:42]; 10. V. Valse. Lento [2:24]; 11. VI. Russian Sailor’s Dance. Allegro – Pesante – Moderato – Animato – Sostenuto poco – Più tranquillo – Più mosso – Presto – Più mosso – Prestissimo [3:56] Total time: [60:40] BBC Philharmonic: Sir Edward Downes
Suite from ‘The Bronze Horseman’
1. 1. i) Introduction. Andante [3:04]; 2. ii) On the Senate Square. Allegro [2:27]; 3. iii) Dance on the Square [2:16]; 4. 2. i) Eugene. Moderato [2:10]; 5. ii) Parasha. Andantino [1:12]; 6. iii) Lyric scene. Andante [4:40]; 7. Dancing scene. Vivace [6:12]; 8. 4. i) Fortune-telling. Vivace [2:46]; 9. ii) Dancing in a ring with dancing. Andante – Alegretto [3:31]; 10. 5. Meeting (second lyric scene). Allegro agitato [6:56]; 11. 6. Waltz. Tempo di valse [3:41]; 12. 7. Anticipation (Beginning of the storm). Allegro molto agitato [3:09]; 13. 8. Hymn to the Great City [3:44]
Concerto for Horn and Orchestra, Op.91*
14. Allegro [11:28]; 15. Andante [6:21]; 16. Moderato – Allegro vivace [5:55] Total time: [70:16]
BBC Philharmonic: Sir Edward Downes. Richard Watkins – Horn*
1. Overture: Gyul’sara [16:58]; 2. Concert Waltz, Op.90 [5:59]; 3. Overture: Shakh-Senem. Allegro moderato [15:57]; 4. Ballad, Op.4* (Arranged for small orchestra by V. Derzhanovsky) Andante [5:43]; 5. Overture on Slavonic Themes [9:42]; 6. Heroic March for the Buryat-Mongolian ASSR, Op.71. Tempo di Marcia [11:12]; 7. Overture: Holiday at Ferghana, Op.75 Allegro assai. Festivo [9:05]. Total time: [75:30] BBC Philharmonic: Vassily Sinaisky. Peter Dixon: Cello*
Recording venue: Studio 7 Concert Hall, New Broadcasting House, Manchester, England: 5-6 September 1991 (CD1); 16-17 December, 1991 (CD2); 12-13 November, 1992 (CD3); 15-16 March, 1994 (CD4); 21-22 May, 1996 (CD5).
CHANDOS CHAN 10679 (5)

Done with Chandos style … elite results … voluptuously lyrical and vividly imagined … The price is irresistible.