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ClassicsOnline Home » GLIERE: Symphony No. 1 / The Sirens
(Reinhold Gliere) was of Belgian descent, the son of a maker of wind
instruments in Kiev. He learned the violin as a child and entered the Kiev
Music School, studying violin and composition, before becoming a student in
1884 at the Conservatory in Moscow. There he was a pupil of the violinist
Hrimaly and of Taneyev, Arensky, Konyus and Ippolitov-Ivanov. In 1900 he
completed his Conservatory studies, his graduation composition a one-act
opera-oratorio Earth and Heaven, based on Byron.
employment was as a teacher at the Gnesin Music School in Moscow. From 1905 to
1907 he studied conducting with Oscar Fried in Berlin, appearing as a conductor
on his return to Russia in 1908, the year of his successful symphonic poem The
Sirens. A third symphony followed the two earlier symphonies of 1900 and
1907, before his return in 1913 to Kiev as head of the Conservatory composition
class, followed in 1914 by promotion to the position of director.
From 1920 until his
retirement in 1941 Gliere taught composition at the Conservatory in Moscow. He
showed great 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 Baku
ten years later. His investigations extended also to Uzbekistan and other
Soviet republics, while the more familiar music of the Ukraine provided him
with another source of inspiration.
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 until 1948. His work was officially recognised by various state awards,
including the title of People's Artist, bestowed in 1938. Gliere died in
In style Gliere is
heir to the Russian romantic tradition. His music for ballet won him a firm
reputation among dancers, with The Red Flower of 1926 and the Bronze
Horseman of 1949 of particular fame, while his other works, in particular
the Harp Concerto and the third symphony, Il'ya Muromets have
a deserved place in popular repertoire.
Symphony No. 1 in
E-Flat, Op. 8
Andante – Allegro
The Symphony in E-Flat, Opus 8, was started in 1899, while
Gliere was still a student at the Moscow Conservatory, and completed in the
following year. It illustrates clearly enough the composer's preference for the
relatively Western classicism of Tchaikovsky, rather than the nationalism of
the Five. Nevertheless the idiom is an essentially Russian one.
The first movement
opens with an Andante leading to an Allegro that shows a sure handling of the
orchestra, a feature of the whole work, and a testimony to the sound teaching
of Ippolitov-Ivanov. There is a lively scherzo and a lyrical slow movement, its
thematic material proclaiming its national origin. This is followed by a finale
that provides a stirring conclusion, in spite of a tendency to over-use
The Sirens, Opus 33
The Sirens, a symphonic poem, was completed in 1908. It
provides, in its deft handling of the orchestra, an evocative picture of those
enchantresses that lured sailors to their doom. According to the Roman
historian Suetonius the Emperor Tiberius would tease scholars by asking what
song the Sirens sang. To this enigma Gliere provided his own answer, in the
language of Ondine.
The American conductor
Stephen Gunzenhauser was educated in New York, continuing his studies at
Oberlin, at the Salzburg Mozarteum, at the New England Conservatory and at
Cologne State Conservatory .His period at the last of these was the result of a
Fulbright Scholarship, followed by an award from the West German Government and
a first prize in the conducting competition held in the Spanish town of
For the Marco Polo
label Stephen Gunzenhauser has recorded works by Bloch, Lachner, Taneyev,
Liadov, Gliere and Rubinstein, and for NAXOS Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.
5, Beethoven's Overtures, the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony, Orff's Carmina
Burana and the symphonies of Borodin. He is currently engaged in recording
all the symphonies and symphonic poems of Dvořák, also for NAXOS.
Philharmonic Orchestra has benefited considerably from the work of its
distinguished conductors. These included Vaclav Talich (1949-1952), Ludovit
Rajter, Ladislav Slovak and Libor Pešek. Zdenék Košler has also had a long and
distinguished association with the orchestra and has conducted many of its most
successful recordings, among them the complete symphonies of Dvořák.
During the years of
its professional existence the Slovak Philharmonic has worked under the
direction of many of the most distinguished conductors from abroad, from Eugene
Goossens and Malcolm Sargent to Claudio Abbado, Antal Dorati and Riccardo Muti.
The orchestra has
undertaken many tours abroad, including visits to Germany and Japan, and has
made a large number of recordings for the Czech Opus label, for Supraphon, for
Hungaroton and, in recent years, for the Marco Polo and Naxos labels. These
recordings have brought the orchestra a growing international reputation and
praise from the critics of leading international publications.
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GLIERE: Symphony No. 1 / The Sirens