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Gliere: Symphony No. 3 'il'ya Muromets' [Import]

Gliere Audio CD

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Product Description

Gliere's most successful orchestral work, the spectacular Symphony No.3, is heard on this recording in its uncut version. Scored for a large orchestra including eight horns, two harps and celesta, it was inspired by the adventures of Il'ya Muromets, the legendary warrior from the Middle Ages of Mother Russia.

Product Description

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra - JoAnn Falletta, direction

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  11 reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally -- the definitive statement on "Ilya Mourometz" Feb. 25 2014
By Classic Music Lover - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
With the release of this new recording of Reinhold Glière's monumental "Ilya Mourometz" Symphony, do we now have the "definitive" performance of this music?

I think the answer is now 'yes.' We had an early indication of this when JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic performed this mammoth symphony at a Carnegie Hall concert in May 2013 -- a concert that was broadcast live on public radio.

I remember marveling at the exciting interpretation, along with the precision ensemble of the massed orchestral forces called for by the music.

I consider this symphony to be a prime example of the late flowering of Romanticism in classical music. Composed in 1911, it is a big work (more than 70 minutes in length), telling a big story, with a big orchestra. It is very "Russian," and it is very likely the biggest "statement" made by any Russian symphony.

The musical language isn't revolutionary in the slightest. There are interesting hints of other composers' influences in the score. For example, passages in the second movement sound like Scriabin (his 2nd and 3rd symphonies). And Borodin seems to be hovering around nearby - particularly in the first and third movements. But in its grandeur and sweep, this symphony really has no equal in Russian music - and certainly didn't at the time of its composition in 1911.

Another interesting aspect about this symphony is that the composer didn't compose anything on this scale before or after. I love a number of other Glière scores, especially when performed by leading artists. (Dame Joan Sutherland singing the Concerto for Coloratura Soprano & Orchestra or Ossian Ellis playing the Harp Concerto are good cases in point.) But nothing else in Glière's output comes even close to this piece, despite the fact that he continued composing for another 35+ years.

I have heard quite a few recordings of the "Ilya Mourometz" Symphony - including older recordings: Leopold Stokowski (with Philadelphia and Houston), Eugene Ormandy (also Philadelphia), Hermann Scherchen (with the Vienna State Opera Orchestra), Jacques Rachmilovich (with the Santa Cecilia Orchestra) ... and other ones with Natan Rakhlin, Donald Johanos, Edward Downes, Yoav Talmi and Leon Botstein. A word of caution: Most of the earlier performances are brutally cut -- likely done so the symphony could be presented on a single LP.

To my knowledge, the first recording of the complete score was Hermann Scherchen's from the early 1950s, which I've always loved but which suffers from the orchestra sounding rough-hewn in places (plus, it's not in stereo).

One recording I haven't heard is Harold Farberman's with the Royal Philharmonic, clocking in at around 90 minutes which would seem to be way over-indulgent -- even for this piece of music.

JoAnn Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic perform every note of the score, and their interpretation is perfectly timed - neither rushed nor too lethargic. Moods range from contemplative and brooding ... to stormy ... to utterly magical -- the second movement is particularly scintillating, and even ethereal in places. And the brief third movement, portraying a feast at the castle, is thrilling with its Rimsky-like orchestration portraying the festive atmosphere.

In the first and last movements, the Buffalo brass players really come forth with great drama and fury - going right to the edge but not going off the rails. It's really powerful stuff, and the precision ensemble work is everything one could hope it to be. I don't hear a single cracked horn note or any other "wrong note distractions." (The notoriously difficult passages for strings in the second movement are also navigated beautifully.)

For such a gargantuan composition, one would think it would end with a bang (think Mahler or Bruckner, or even Schönberg's "Gurre-Lieder"). But that is not the case here: This symphony begins and ends in the depths -- the ending truly a whimper as "all the heroes were now gone from Russia." But the catharsis is there, just as surely as it is at the end of a Bruckner or Mahler symphony. That's the beauty of JoAnn Falletta's interpretation, which delivers this resolution better than on any other recording I've heard.

On balance, I believe that this is now the best recording available of this symphony. It has the grit and power of Scherchen, but the playing is far more polished. JoAnn Falletta has figured out the key for getting past Glière's more rhetorical passages and creating a highly satisfying emotional "arc" for the musical narrative - and in this regard she is more successful than the Johanos, Rakhlin, Downes or Botstein recordings. (The performances by Rachmilovich, Ormandy, Stokowski and Talmi are out of the running because of the often-deep cuts made to the score.)

Finally, the quality of the recorded sound is exceptional, aided by the bright-but-natural acoustics of the Buffalo Philharmonic's concert hall which the NAXOS engineers have captured faithfully.

In sum, I give this recording the highest recommendation. While many of the alternative ones have their strong points, if you were to own just one recording of "Ilya Mourometz," this one's it. And at NAXOS's affordable mid-line price, it's a bargain to boot.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worthy of a Grammy Nomination Feb. 27 2014
By Catager - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
While I may be a neophyte to classical music I do know this recording of Gliere's Symphony No. 3 is truly special. I was also fortunate to see the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra perform this live at Carnegie Hall in spring 2013 and could not wait for them to record this piece. The time passes quickly for a piece that is in excess of an hour. The ending is not the usual fanfare of most pieces but goes out with a softness which maybe endears me to this symphony even more. JoAnn Falletta and the BPO are probably the most underrated orchestra in America.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic journey March 13 2014
By Digital Chips, Inc. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Good or even better May 18 2014
By Terrence W. Faulkner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
I have been very fond of this symphony since hearing the truncated 1940 recording by Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra. I believe that I have heard all of the commercially recorded versions as well as several off the air recordings of live performances including three subsequent Stokowski performances (less impassioned than his 1940 effort). The Falleta recording is very close to being as good as that 1940 version but has the additional advantage of being complete and, of course, it has excellent modern sound. So, I regard it as the best of all.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First Cinematic Muromets? March 26 2014
By AndrewCF - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD
As stated by Maestro Falletta, Gliere's Symphony No. 3 "Il'ya Muromets" is a cult favorite that is almost never performed in the concert hall. I have known about this symphony since I borrowed the old Ormandy mono version (Columbia) from my local library. That performance, though distinguished, was greatly abridged, as was the stereo but cavernous remake by Ormandy when the Philadelphia Orchestra signed with RCA in the 70s. The abridged version conducted by Stokowski (Capital/EMI) is rushed, almost embarrassingly so, as if the maestro was trying to catch a train - not one of his finest efforts. In the 70's, Columbia released some Melodiya recordings that had been only available as poorly pressed imports; the Rakhlin version, on two LPs, was purported to be complete - it wasn't, but the conductor was no longer pressured to alter his tempi or score. My memory, which may not be reliable, is that the conducting was fine, making the most of the symphony's sensual passages.

Not until Farberman's Unicorn recording was there an absolutely complete "Muromets." While there is fastidious reverence for the material, the conducting is plodding, maddeningly so, and nearly lifeless. If you were never a fan, this recording would kill enthusiasm; all of Gliere's "borrowing" of Rimsky-Korsakov and Scriabin become overly apparent and so many passages seem long-winded. Luckily, some labels and conductors were not discouraged. We've had well recorded versions by Downes on Chandos and Botstein on Telarc (Super Audio Surround Sound). In particular, Botstein breathes new life into this material, although (like Falletta) he does bulldoze the luxuriant Andante (Solovei the Brigand), which in my opinion is a serious detriment.

Let's face it: this music is a narrative and is not a hymn. What Falletta has done is tell a story in almost cinematic terms. She does not linger over the most ponderous bars in order to thwart the momentum. This version has a brilliance and flow that exceeds all previous versions. Her breathtaking clip for the Allegro movement (At the Court of Vladimir) makes perfect sense. I was rather impressed by her treatment of the final movement, where Falletta must deal with the complex action at hand, the memory of past experiences of the hero Muromets and the gravity of his demise, all with a nationalistic flair. The Muromets motif has never been so prominent; the horns of the Buffalo Philharmonic are superb.

For a recording engineer, this symphony could be a blessing or a nightmare. Alas, while the recording is good, Tim Handley is often overwhelmed by the layers of this score, especially in the fourth movement. The sound does get distorted. Since multi-tracking has become an anathema in classical recording, judicious placement of microphones is required - I do not know the challenges of this venue, but the sound is muddled at times.

Those who mock Gliere as a worthy composer should listen to his sextet and his concertos. If you are a fan of this symphony, you should be aware that it clocks in at 71:40, but it never sounds rushed (except, as mentioned, for the 2nd movement). This is just the latest in maestro Falletta's considerable achievements.

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