Glire: Overtures; Concert Waltz, Op. 90; Ballad, Op. 4; Heroic March, Op. 71

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COMPOSERS: Glire
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: Overtures; Concert Waltz, Op. 90; Ballad, Op. 4; Heroic March, Op. 71
PERFORMER: BBC Philharmonic/Vassily Sinaisky
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9518
The fascination of the pieces on this disc lies as much in the circumstances of their composition as in the music itself. As a good Soviet composer, Reinhold Glière dutifully turned out ‘music for the people’ until his death in 1956. It may have earned him the scorn of Western progressives, but there is absolutely no doubt that this melodious music finds readier acceptance today than the contortions of serialism, minimalism or collageism, or whatever ‘ism’ you choose to name. That said, easiness on the ear is not the sole benchmark of quality. Familiar musical language can rapidly become dull if the basic material is not absolutely first rate.

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With Glière, particularly the music on this disc, the problem is not so much that it is dull, but that other composers did it better. His attempts at exoticism in the overtures cannot match the vibrant colours of Rimsky-Korsakov; the waltz is good dance music but lacks the irony of Prokofiev; the pentatonic meddling in the Heroic March is not a patch on Puccini’s Eastern pastiches. The BBC Philharmonic, however, makes a convincing case that these pieces should be heard – but in isolation. Together they become monotonous. Christopher Lambton