Gliere: Symphony No. 3, Op. 42
Stereo/Multichannel Single Layer
Classical - Orchestral
Gliere: Symphony No. 3, Op. 42 "Il'ya Muromets"
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
“The Glière Symphony No. 3 has always been a piece that shimmered on my horizon—a cult piece, in a way, renowned as the composer’s towering masterpiece but rarely played in concert. As long as a Mahler symphony and enormous in its instrumental requirements, it was a work that people spoke about reverently but almost never heard live. The recording was an adventure that changed our orchestra, strengthened us, and became an artistic benchmark for our musicians. We revelled in the gorgeous landscape of the Symphony—from mysterious bass murmurings to crushing walls of brass fortissimo to breathtaking impressionistic renderings of forests and birds. We performed and recorded this massive work uncut to preserve Glière’s extraordinary architecture. This work is a cathedral in sound that unfolds in breathtaking swashes of colour, poetry and monumental climaxes.” – JoAnn Falletta
Review by Graham Williams - September 22, 2014
The long life of Reinhold Glière ( 1875-1956) began under Tsar Alexander II and ended three years after the death of Stalin when the Soviet Union was led by Nikita Kruschev. His essentially conservative musical language stems from his studies with his teachers at the Moscow Conservatory – including Ippolitov-Ivanov, Tanyev and Arensky – and, unlike Prokofiev and Shostakovich, was definitely instrumental in keeping him away from conflict with the authorities in the years following the Russian Revolution. Glière's melodic and well-crafted first two symphonies are fine examples in the genre of Russian Romantic works at the start of the 20th century. Neither, however, quite prepares us for his gargantuan Symphony No. 3 'Il'ya Mouromets'. Composed in 1911 on an epic scale and scored for huge orchestral forces it lasts more than 70 minutes and represents immense challenges for conductors, orchestras and especially recording engineers; challenges that are met with great success on this Naxos Blu-ray Audio recording by JoAnn Falletta and her marvellous Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
In the disc liner notes Falletta writes “The recording was an adventure that changed our orchestra, strengthened us, and became an artistic benchmark for our musicians. We revelled in the gorgeous landscape of the Symphony – from mysterious bass murmurings to crushing walls of brass fortissimo to breathtaking impressionistic renderings of forests and birds. We performed and recorded this massive work uncut to preserve Glière’s extraordinary architecture. This work is a cathedral in sound that unfolds in breathtaking swashes of colour, poetry and monumental climaxes.”
The dedication that Falletta and her orchestra bring to each of the four colourful tableaux that make up this symphony ensures that the listener's interest is held throughout its 71'37”duration. One can relish the atmosphere, drama and vivid characterisation that she elicits from music, that though original, clearly shows the influences of some of the composer's more famous predecessors including Wagner, Scriabin, Borodin and Tchaikovsky.
Over the past 60 years this symphony has received a number of recordings. The earliest by Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy were heavily cut reducing the symphony to almost half its original length. In more recent years the work has been recorded uncut, but often these versions were either sonically compromised by the limitations of the recording technology of the day or by less than compelling conducting. The only competition already available in high definition sound is the outstanding hybrid multi-channel SACD by Leon Botstein and the LSO on Telarc Gliere: Symphony No. 3 - Botstein.
A direct comparison between that recording and this new one confirmed without doubt the superiority of the sound on the Telarc disc (DSD). Good though the engineering is from Tim Handley on this Naxos Blu-ray (24-bit 96kHz) recorded at Kleinhans Music Hall, Buffalo, I did find the wide soundstage to be slightly lacking in definition, while the surround channels are at such a low level that they provide little in the way of extra ambience. Incidentally, the information printed on the Blu-ray case states that it is in 5.1 surround, but the disc on-screen display shows it to be 5.0.
In terms of performance there is little to chose between Botstein and Falletta, though arguably Falletta's more intense reading just has the edge. It is safe to say that those with a taste for epic late-romantic scores will be more than happy with this committed new account.
Copyright © 2014 Graham Williams and HRAudio.net