- Symphony No. 3 in B minor ("Il'ya Muromets"), Op. 42 - Reinhold Glière - Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra - JoAnn Falletta
Glière: Symphony No. 3 "Il'ya Muromets"by JoAnn Falletta
In the west, Reinhold Glière is best known for the "Russian Sailor's Dance" from his successful ballet "The Red Poppy," though his other works are starting to be explored more extensively. A prime example is the "Symphony No. 3 in B minor, Il'ya Muromets," a vibrant programmatic work that has received increased attention, with several/a>… See more details below
In the west, Reinhold Glière is best known for the "Russian Sailor's Dance" from his successful ballet "The Red Poppy," though his other works are starting to be explored more extensively. A prime example is the "Symphony No. 3 in B minor, Il'ya Muromets," a vibrant programmatic work that has received increased attention, with several recordings appearing since the 1990s. As conductor JoAnn Falletta says in her notes for her recording with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on Naxos, it has become a cult piece. This is no doubt due to its exciting medieval subject, its colorful scoring in the manner of Rimsky-Korsakov, and monumental length, all of which make it irresistible to lovers of post-Romantic symphonies and tone poems. Its vivid representations of nature and lush atmosphere make it the kind of accessible but not overplayed music audiences take to easily. Falletta and her orchestra performed the symphony in 2013, live and without cuts, so the work's rich expressions and epic scope are conveyed with more impressive effect than Leopold Stokowski's truncated version, which he recorded in the mid-20th century. While this recording must compete with several other complete versions, it should be counted among the best, and it is recommended for any newcomers to this fascinating symphony.
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Performance CreditsJoAnn Falletta Primary Artist
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Gliere's sprawling symphony takes the listener on an epic sonic odyssey. From the somber opening bars that foreshadow the arrival of the heroic Il'ya Muromets, to the closing chords where Muromets and his brave Bogatyrs knights are defeated and turned to stone, Giere weaves a tightly-constructed narrative that's both coherent and immersive. The first recording of this work was with Stokowski, who (with Gliere's permission) trimmed the work down from 70+ minutes to a svelte 38 minutes. Although it's a thrilling performance (it is Stoki, after all), it didn't do the work justice. Because Gliere's third symphony has no filler -- every note is there for a reason, and every note helps further the story. Others have recorded the complete version of this work, but somehow failed to completely communicate overarching dramatic motion of the music. There are plenty of beautifully written sections that its tempting the linger over, but just as with the organic music of Wagner and Mahler, they're most effective in context. And JoAnn Falletta understands that context. Her performance with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is one that delivered new pleasures every time I listened to it. The story for this programmatic work is quite detailed -- but you really don't need to follow it with this recording. Falletta and the BPO effectively paint each scene completely. The release is beautifully recorded, allowing the listener to hear Gliere's subtle orchestrations. A joy to listen to from start to finish.
Opinions on this symphony vary from "Gliere's masterpiece" to "a pompous, overblown work not worth the paper on which it's written." Because of its great length (the score is 413 pages long) this gigantic, sprawling composition receives very few concert performances, yet it has been a favorite of of LP- and CD-collectors for over 60 years. Chronologically, versions range from Hermann Scherchen's 1952 recording (performance time 81 mins.), to this latest offering from Maestra JoAnn Falletta (performance time 72 mins.). I first heard this symphony in the interpretation by Leopold Stokowski, which is brutally truncated (performance time 38 mins.) and (when I heard it) contained a dreadfully obvious and off-pitch tape join in the finale. The version with the longest performance time is that of Harold Farberman (93 mins.). Other versions include those by Nathan Rakhlin (cruelly truncated), Eugene Ormany (truncated to 65 min.), Edward Downes (performance time 78 min.), Leon Botstein (performance time 72 mins.), and Donald Johanos (performance time 76 mins.). One reviewer savaged the Botstein version because he flagrantly ignored Gliere's tempo markings. Another reviewer noted that Farberman's version (1978, remastered 2012) is the only one in which Gliere's tempi are observed correctly. Other reviewers' opinions on the Downes version range from "not very exciting" to "thrilling." The program notes accompanying this new CD under Maestra Falletta's direction explicitly state that no cuts were made, which means that her tempi are on the fast side compared with those of Downes, Farberman, Johanos, and Scherchen. Performance times per se, of course, don't tell the whole story, but here the numbers are telling. A comparison of timings for just the finale reinforce the point: Farberman 27:46, Downes 26:17, Johanos 25:07, Falletta 23:04. "Longer" doesn't necessarily mean "dragging" or "ponderous"; Farberman observes Gliere's tempi yet maintains the tension superbly. Despite Edward Yadzinski's excellent program notes I can regrettably recommend this new CD only to those who are devotees of Maestra Falletta, want a budget version with good recorded sound, and don't mind tempi that are clearly faster than Gliere indicated. For interpretations closer to Gliere's wishes I recommend those of Harold Farberman (authentic tempi, excellent sound, 2-CD set) or Edward Downes (near-authentic tempi, excellent sound, single CD). Ted Wilks