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Gliere: Symphony no 3 "Il'ya Muromets" / Falletta, Buffalo Philharmonic

Gliere / Falletta / Buffalo Phil Orch
Release Date: 09/09/2014 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 41  
Composer:  Reinhold Gliere
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a Blu-ray Audio disc and is not playable on standard CD players.


This is an important recording for several reasons. First, it contains the finest version yet recorded of Glière’s epic Third Symphony, “Il’ya Muromets”. Second, it defines once and for all how the piece is supposed to go. In order to understand this latter point, we need to take a moment and review the work’s history on disc.

The symphony’s most famous early recording was Hermann Scherchen’s, a mono Westminster release that wasn’t very good, and more to the point, came from a conductor too erratic to be taken seriously as a definitive interpreter of, well, anything (fun though he
Read more often was). After Scherchen, recordings such as Ormandy’s and Stokowski’s presented the music heavily cut, thus contributing to the legend of the work’s monstrous length and musical prolixity. Aside from a hard to find, rather crude Russian recording featuring the Moscow Radio Symphony under Boris Khaikin, that is where matters stood for many years.

At the dawn of the digital age, Harold Farberman made the first modern recording of the symphony for Unicorn. That version got a lot of attention, first, because it was one of the first digital LPs ever released, and second, because Farberman presented the piece uncut. Unfortunately, Farberman was famous for playing just about everything at half the normal tempo (Mahler too). His recording lasted more than 90 minutes spread over two discs, and further contributed to the myth of the symphony as a bloated monstrosity. This was the situation until two recordings, Edward Downes on Chandos and Donald Johanos on Naxos, showed that the complete piece could be played in about 70 minutes, or about the same length as a traditional performance of Beethoven’s Ninth or Mahler’s Fifth–long, but not absurdly so.

Those were good performances: the Downes handsomely recorded but a touch characterless, the Johanos more exciting but edgily played by the Bratislava orchestra and somewhat thinly engineered. Until now, that was the reference recording for the symphony. Now, finally, we have a superbly played, viscerally exciting, richly engineered recording that proves that the symphony does indeed “work” as a coherent piece of music. What are the qualities that make this recording special?

First, Falletta takes the first movement’s lengthy introduction at a naturally flowing tempo that creates a palpable feeling of anticipation. It leads to a swift allegro that presses forward without letup, lending the movement an unusual degree of inevitability and coherence. The Andante, which can sound almost suffocatingly, sickeningly thick, has plenty of atmosphere but again a welcome feeling of forward movement and a refreshing transparency of texture. The scherzo always works, and this one glitters brilliantly, with Solovey the Brigand’s shriek in the central section making an appropriately alarming impression. Best of all, Falletta offers a truly exciting, hell for leather account of the finale, easily the best yet recorded. The climactic petrification of Il’ya Muromets is overwhelmingly powerful, setting up the quiet coda as an inevitable and satisfying conclusion.

Now I am not going to suggest that the symphony is concise or pithily argued, but this interpretation makes better sense of it than any previous version, and it’s also engineered with the vividness and impact necessary to do the playing full justice. The myth of the music’s awkward gigantism and formal diffuseness has been debunked, with the perhaps paradoxical result that the symphony’s true stature has grown proportionately.

– David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com Read less

Works on This Recording

1.
Symphony no 3 in B minor, Op. 42 "Il'ya Muromets" by Reinhold Gliere
Conductor:  JoAnn Falletta
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909-1911; Russia 

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Big, Brash and Beautiful May 28, 2016 By owen  ryan (lakewood, CA) See All My Reviews "How to characterise this programatic symphony? Sweeping and monumental come to mind but are not quite accurate. Suffice to say that this work is big not only in timing but also in the aural space it seems to occupy. I think if you were to listen to it you would understand what I'm trying to get at. Some critics say it is a conventional work. I think that misses the point: perhaps not ground-breaking but certainly an interesting and entertaining work. I've been listening to it frequently for almost two weeks and have not tired of it. The conductor and orchestra give it their all--a marvelous performance. Tim Handley, the engineer, has produced a number of really good recordings for Naxos and this is no exception. This is the best sounding Blu-ray I have heard. I'm sure the CD version would also be great. I give this a top rating and strong recommendation." Report Abuse
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