GLIERE: Symphony No. 3, 'Il'ya Muromets' (Donald Johanos/ Rudolf Hentsel/ Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra) (Naxos: 8.550858)
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Reinhold Gli?¿re (1875 - 1956)
Symphony No.3 'Il'ya Muromets' in B Minor, Op. 42
Reinhold Gli?¿re (Reyngol'd Moritsevich Glier), a Soviet composer of Belgiandescent, was born in Kiev in 1875, the son of a maker of wind instruments. Heplayed the violin and wrote music at home and studied for three years at theKiev Conservatory before entering the Moscow Conservatory in 1894. There hestudied the violin with Hrimaly, and composition with Taneyev, taking lessons inharmony from Arensky and his pupil Konyus and in orchestration fromIppolitov-Ivanov. He graduated in 1900 with a one-act opera-oratorio Earth andHeaven, based on Byron.
Gli?¿re's first employment was as a teacher at the Gnesin Music School, andhe was to spend the summer holidays of 1902 and 1903 as tutor to theeleven-year- old Prokofiev. For two years from 1905 he studied conducting withOscar Fried in Berlin, making his first appearance as a conductor in Russia in1908, while his compositions continued to make a favourable impression. In 1913he returned to Kiev to teach the composition class at the Conservatory, of whichhe became director the following year. His former pupil Prokofiev was to appearas soloist in Kiev in his own first piano concerto under Gli?¿re's direction in1916.
From 1920 until his retirement in 1941 Gli?¿re taught composition at theConservatory in Moscow. He showed particular interest in the music of thevarious ethnic minorities of the Soviet Union, making a detailed study of themusic of Azerbaijan that bore fruit in his opera Shakh-Senem, written in1924 and performed in Russian in Baku three years later and in Azerbaijani in1934. His musicological investigations extended to Uzbekistan and other Sovietrepublics, while the more familiar music of the Ukraine provided him withanother native source of inspiration.
During his career Gli?¿re occupied a number of official positions. In theearly years of the Revolution he headed the music section of the MoscowDepartment of Popular Education and was Chairman of the organizing committee ofthe Union of Soviet Composers from 1938 until 1948. His work was officiallyrecognised by various state awards, including the title of People's Artist,bestowed in 1938. He died in Moscow in 1956.
As a composer Gli?¿re was heir to the Russian romantic tradition, somethingthat brought him official praise in 1948 when the music of Prokofiev andShostakovich was condemned. In particular his ballet music proved popular. TheRed Poppy, later known as The Red Flower, to obviate misunderstanding, satisfiedpolitical choreographic demands, and became a well known part of balletrepertoire from 1926 onwards, and the later ballet-score The Bronze Horseman,completed in 1949, retains a place in Soviet ballet repertoire.
Gli?¿re completed his third symphony in 1911, choosing to base it on thelegend of Il'ya Muromets, the subject of ancient Russian epic. Il'ya Muromets isdescribed as the son of a peasant and appears in a number of early Russianpoems, to be identified, it is thought, with the pagan god Pyerun, buteventually absorbed into Christian tradition. One group of Russian epics, orbyliny, is concerned with the older heroes or bogatyri, of which Il'ya Murometsand Svyatogor are among the most important. The former, remarkable among otherthings as the son of a peasant, was weak, without the use of his legs, for thefirst 33 years of his life, but strength came to him by a miracle, when twopassing travellers, wandering pilgrims, gave him a draught of honey. Hisexploits in the service of Vladimir Fair Sun, to be identified either with thehistorical St. Vladimir, the first Christian ruler of Kiev, or with a laterprince, Vladimir Monomakh, were remarkable in wars against pagan enemies, muchassisted, 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 thechurches of Kiev, but when death approached he built a cathedral in Kiev andwhen he died his body was turned to stone, and so remains to this day, as theepics tell us.
The symphony opens with a slow and evocative introduction, a horn callpiercing the mists of medieval Russia, as excitement mounts, the hero springs tolife, 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 HolyMountains, taking pleasure on their journey in heroic games. They find a largecoffin 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 ofthe dead hero and rides on to Kiev.
Solovey the Brigand lives in the forest, sheltered in a grove of sevenoak-trees. He whistles like a nightingale and sends out fierce cries, and allthe men in his country lie dead. Three girls help to lure his victims to theirdoom. When he hears Il'ya Muromets approaching, Solovey whistles and utters hisharsh 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 himto the palace of Prince Vladimir. The movement starts with an eerie stringfigure, and follows in general the traditional story, moving from the sinisterto 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 hisharsh 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 iswelcomed by Vladimir as a knight at his table.
The longest of the four movements deals with the brave exploits of Il'yaMuromets against the enemies of Christian Kiev, led by Batygha the Wicked. Hefights against Oudalaya Polyenitsa for twelve days and nights, beheading him andcarrying his severed head back on a lance. Other enemies arise, two warriors whoincrease in number as each one falls. In flight Il'ya Muromets and the bogatyrsare turned to stone, and this is the reason for the absence of bogatyrs today.
Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava)
The Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava), the oldest symphonicensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 at the instance of Milos Ruppeldt andOskar Nedbal, prominent personalities in the sphere of music. Ondrej Lenard wasappointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977 its conductor-in- chief. Theorchestra has given successful concerts both at home and abroad, in Germany,Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Hong Kong andJapan. For Marco Polo the orchestra has recorded works by Glazunov, Gli?¿re,Miaskovsky and other late romantic composers and film music of Honegger, Bliss,Ibert and Khachaturian as well as several volumes of the label's JohannStrauss Edition. Naxos recordings include symphonies and ballets byTchaikovsky, and symphonies by Berlioz and Saint-Sa?½ns.
Donald Johanos has been Music Director and Conductor of the Honolulu Symphonysince 1979, establishing a reputation for high standards and musical excitementthat has carried the Honolulu Symphony to new levels of growth and development.
The Composer in Residence grant awarded to the Honolulu Symphony was directlyattributed to his championing of contemporary works, citing him as "anextraordinary advocate for American m