Glière: Symphony No. 3
With a playing time of nearly 80 minutes and utilising an orchestra of mammoth proportions, this programmatic symphony, charting the adventures of the 10th-century warrior Il’ya Mumorets, must be regarded as one of the most extravagant musical manifestations of Russian late-Romanticism. Composed in the heady days just before the First World War, so roughly contemporary with such blockbusters as Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, Glière’s epic score provides a fascinating synthesis of different musical influences. In the outer movements, Wagner and Tchaikovsky loom large, whereas the languorous shimmering impressionism of the second movement ‘Solvey: the Brigand’ recalls Scriabin and even Stravinsky’s Firebird. The comparatively brief third movement (‘At the Court of Vladimir, the Mighty Sun’) is pure Borodin but none the worse for that.
Despite the lack of a distinctive musical personality, the sheer virtuosity with which Glière marshals his forces makes this a very attractive showpiece. Little wonder then that JoAnn Falletta relished the challenge of conducting the work and, as she explains in the booklet notes, resolved to make it the centrepiece of the Buffalo Philharmonic’s season. Having performed the Symphony live in concerts in Buffalo and New York certainly gives her recording a distinct advantage over rival versions which seem far more studio bound. Indeed Falletta and her excellent orchestra give a visceral account of the score projecting its wide range of moods, from mystery and enchantment to violence and tragic intensity, with far greater immediacy than the refined if comparatively staid interpretation from Edward Downes and the BBC Philharmonic on Chandos.