REGISTER NOW AND GET
• 5 FREE tracks! • 101 tracks for $9.99
ClassicsOnline Home » GLIERE: Symphony No. 3, 'Il'ya Muromets'
"this well characterised dramatic reading by Donald Johanos and the Czecho-Slovak RSO"
Reinhold Glière (1875 - 1956)
Symphony No.3 'Il'ya Muromets' in B Minor, Op. 42
Reinhold Glière (Reyngol'd Moritsevich Glier), a Soviet 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 graduated in 1900 with a one-act opera-oratorio Earth and
Heaven, based on Byron.
Glière's first 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 the following year. His former pupil Prokofiev was to appear
as soloist in Kiev in his own first piano concerto under Glière's direction in
From 1920 until his retirement in 1941 Glière 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, written in
1924 and performed in Russian in Baku three years later and in Azerbaijani 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 inspiration.
During his career Glière 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 until 1948. 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 Glière was heir to 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 as The Red Flower, to obviate misunderstanding, satisfied
political choreographic demands, and became a well known part of ballet
repertoire from 1926 onwards, and the later ballet-score The Bronze Horseman,
completed in 1949, retains a place in Soviet ballet repertoire.
Glière completed his third symphony in 1911, choosing to base it on the
legend of Il'ya Muromets, the subject of ancient Russian epic. Il'ya Muromets is
described as the son of a peasant and appears in a number of early Russian
poems, to be identified, it is thought, with the pagan god Pyerun, but
eventually absorbed into Christian tradition. One group of Russian epics, or
byliny, is concerned with the older heroes or bogatyri, of which Il'ya Muromets
and Svyatogor are among the most important. The former, remarkable among other
things as the son of a peasant, was weak, without the use of his legs, for the
first 33 years of his life, but strength came to him by a miracle, when two
passing travellers, wandering pilgrims, gave him a draught of honey. His
exploits in the service of Vladimir Fair Sun, to be identified either with the
historical St. Vladimir, the first Christian ruler of Kiev, or with a later
prince, Vladimir Monomakh, were remarkable in wars against pagan enemies, much
assisted, 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 the
churches of Kiev, but when death approached he built a cathedral in Kiev and
when he died his body was turned to stone, and so remains to this day, as the
epics tell us.
The symphony opens with a slow and evocative introduction, a horn call
piercing the mists of medieval Russia, as excitement mounts, the hero springs to
life, 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 Holy
Mountains, taking pleasure on their journey in heroic games. They find a large
coffin 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 of
the dead hero and rides on to Kiev.
Solovey the Brigand lives in the forest, sheltered in a grove of seven
oak-trees. He whistles like a nightingale and sends out fierce cries, and all
the men in his country lie dead. Three girls help to lure his victims to their
doom. When he hears Il'ya Muromets approaching, Solovey whistles and utters his
harsh 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 him
to the palace of Prince Vladimir. The movement starts with an eerie string
figure, and follows in general the traditional story, moving from the sinister
to 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 his
harsh 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 is
welcomed by Vladimir as a knight at his table.
The longest of the four movements deals with the brave exploits of Il'ya
Muromets against the enemies of Christian Kiev, led by Batygha the Wicked. He
fights against Oudalaya Polyenitsa for twelve days and nights, beheading him and
carrying his severed head back on a lance. Other enemies arise, two warriors who
increase in number as each one falls. In flight Il'ya Muromets and the bogatyrs
are 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 symphonic
ensemble in Slovakia, was founded in 1929 at the instance of Milos Ruppeldt and
Oskar Nedbal, prominent personalities in the sphere of music. Ondrej Lenárd was
appointed its conductor in 1970 and in 1977 its conductor-in- chief. The
orchestra has given successful concerts both at home and abroad, in Germany,
Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Spain, Italy, Great Britain, Hong Kong and
Japan. For Marco Polo the orchestra has recorded works by Glazunov, Glière,
Miaskovsky and other late romantic composers and film music of Honegger, Bliss,
Ibert and Khachaturian as well as several volumes of the label's Johann
Strauss Edition. Naxos recordings include symphonies and ballets by
Tchaikovsky, and symphonies by Berlioz and Saint-Saëns.
Donald Johanos has been Music Director and Conductor of the Honolulu Symphony
since 1979, establishing a reputation for high standards and musical excitement
that has carried the Honolulu Symphony to new levels of growth and development.
The Composer in Residence grant awarded to the Honolulu Symphony was directly
attributed to his championing of contemporary works, citing him as "an
extraordinary advocate for American music". The first place award given to
the Symphony by ASCAP in 1991 also cited Maestro Johanos for "adventuresome
programming of contemporary music".
In 1962 he was appointed music director and principal conductor of the Dallas
Symphony, and in 1970 he became associate conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony.
His guest conducting credentials include the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York,
Lisbon's Golden Festival, the Paris Opera and orchestras including Philadelphia,
Boston, San Francisco, Chicago and the National Symphony. His international
appearances have included Amsterdam, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong and Mexico.
His recording of Glière's Symphony No.3 in B Minor, Op. 42 with the
Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra (Bratislava) is also available on the
Marco Polo label.
Last Albums Viewed
GLIERE: Symphony No. 3, 'Il'ya Muromets'