GLIÈRE Symphony No 3
There have now been something near 20 recordings of Ilya Muromets, a symphony once popular largely through Stokowski’s championship of it in America and its exaltation in Soviet times as embodying a Russian tradition with ready appeal. Glière was in fact not a Russian of Belgian descent, as the booklet-note says, but of German descent (Glier) and Ukrainian birth. However, the Russian Musical Encyclopedia claims him as ‘Soviet’; and his symphony of 1911, with its glorification of a remote and semi-mythical hero and its succulent melodic style and lush orchestration, came to suit the tenets of Socialist Realism. He won many official medals, which he liked to wear, conducting concerts as they clinked merrily.
Glière’s models included Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov, and he was expert enough to capitalise successfully on the former’s orchestral skill with colourful legends and something of the latter’s harmonic manner. The result is lush and vivid, following the detail of a fantastic set of events with plenty of matching orchestral fantasy. They include the defeat of a fearful brigand called Solovey (‘nightingale’), perhaps sarcastically named as his principal weapon against his adversaries was a deafening whistle, and the eventual defeat of Ilya’s forces and their turning to stone, at the hands of an ecclesiastical chant, when he was rash enough to challenge the hosts of Heaven to battle.
JoAnn Falletta is a keen admirer and has an excellent ear not merely for clarifying and controlling the orchestral sumptuousness but for articulating the events dramatically. Her forces cast themselves into the fray with enthusiasm and virtuosity, and the recording engineers rise to some quite demanding occasions.