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ClassicsOnline Home » GLIERE: Bronze Horseman / Shakh-Senem / Gyul'sara
Horseman (Medniy vsadnik) (excerpts)
for the Buryiat-Mongolian ASSR, Op. 71
(Reyngol'd Moritsevich Glier), a Ukrainian composer of Belgian descent, was
born in Kiev in 1875, the son of a maker of wind
instruments. He played the violin and wrote music at home and studied for three
years at the Kiev Conservatory before entering the Moscow Conservatory in 1894.
There he studied the violin with Hrimaly and composition with Taneyev, taking
lessons in harmony from Arensky and his pupil Konyus and in orchestration from
Ippolitov-Ivanov. He completed his studies in 1900 with a one-act
opera-oratorio after Byron, Zemlya i nebo (Earth and Heaven).
employment was as a teacher at the Gnesin Music School, and he was to spend the summer holidays
of 1902 and 1903 as tutor to the eleven-year-old Prokofiev. For two years from
1905 he studied conducting with Oscar Fried in Berlin,
making his first appearance as a conductor in Russia
in 1908, while his compositions continued to make a favourable impression. In
1913 he returned to Kiev to teach the composition class at the Conservatory,
of which he became director in the following year. In 1916 his former pupil
Prokofiev appeared as soloist in Kiev in his own first piano concerto under the
direction of Gliere.
From 1920 until
his retirement in 1941 Gliere taught composition at the Conservatory in Moscow. He showed particular interest in the music of the
various ethnic minorities of the Soviet
Union, making a detailed
study of the music of Azerbaijan that bore fruit in his opera Shakh-Senem,
commissioned in 1923 and completed the following year. The opera was
performed in Russian in Baku three years later, followed by staging
with an Azerbaijani translation in 1934. His musicological investigations
extended to Uzbekistan and other Soviet republics, while the more
familiar music of the Ukraine provided him with another native source of
During his career
Gliere occupied a number of official positions. In the early years of the
Revolution he headed the music section of the Moscow Department of Popular
Education and was Chairman of the organizing committee of the Union of Soviet
Composers from 1938 unti11948. His work was officially recognised by various
state awards, including the title of People's Artist, bestowed in 1938. He died
in Moscow in 1956.
As a composer
Gliere followed the Russian romantic tradition, something that brought him official
praise in 1948 when the music of Prokofiev and Shostakovich was condemned. In
particular his ballet music proved popular. The Red Poppy, later known,
to avoid the connotation of opium, as The Red Flower, satisfied
political choreographic demands and became a well known part of ballet
repertoire from 1926 onwards, while the later ballet The Bronze Horseman, completed
in 1949, also retained its place in Soviet repertoire.
overture to the opera Shakh-Senem makes very considerable use of melodic
material of Azerbaijani origin, but presented in the manner of Rimsky-
Korsakov, with colourful orchestration and in a form removed from its origin,
while a Russian Sheherazade lurks not far away, joined by Polovtsian dancers.
Gliere, here as elsewhere, is exploring a vein of exoticism that had attracted
his nationalist predecessors, notably Rimsky-Korsakov and Borodin. Shakh-Senem
is of local importance as the first work of its kind in Azerbaijan.
The music-drama Gyul'sara,
written in 1936, also relies on melodic material from a similar source,
this time from Uzbekistan and suited to its subject. In 1949 it was
transformed into an opera in collaboration with Sadikov, with performances in Tashkent.
In The Bronze
Horseman, first staged by the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad in March 1949, Gliere returned to a very Russian subject. With
choreography for the Kirov by Rostislav Zakharov, decor by Mikhail Bobyshov
and a libretto based on the original Pushkin poem by Petr Abolimov, the ballet
tells the story, set in St
Petersburg, of Yevgeny and
his beloved Parasha, who meet and fall in love. Parasha is drowned in the
disastrous floods of 1824, and Yevgeny goes mad, believing that the statue of
Peter the Great, the Bronze Horseman of the title, is pursuing him.
Finally he falls, lifeless. In the first production the part of Yevgeny was
taken by Konstantin ergeyev and that of Parasha by Natalya Dudinskaya. The
original story in Pushkin is conveyed by implication, with Parasha making only
an oblique appearance. The ballet is much more explicit in its retelling of Pushkin's
poem. The present excerpts include music for Yevgeny and Parasha and the lyric
scene, followed by a dance scene.
March, originally scored for military band, was written for the
Buryiat-Mongolian Soviet Socialist Association in 1936, one of a number of such
compositions designed for official celebrations of one sort or another, here
making appropriate use of suitable thematic material, finally of Soviet origin.
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GLIERE: Bronze Horseman / Shakh-Senem / Gyul'sara