Glire: Symphony No. 3 (Ilya Muromets)

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COMPOSERS: Glire
LABELS: Telarc
WORKS: Symphony No. 3 (Ilya Muromets)
PERFORMER: LSO/Leon Botstein
CATALOGUE NO: CD-80609
Ilya Muromets is sprawling in its sheer length, and eclectic in style, drawing on late-Romantic styles from Wagner to Debussy, and touching on Scriabin and other Russians. No wonder that Stokowski and Ormandy, though they admired its lush harmonies and orchestration, cut it mercilessly in their recordings. Botstein doesn’t do that, but approaches Glière’s longueurs by adopting fast speeds, which work best in the outer movements and the scherzo. Even so, it feels as if he’s playing the score rather than the music, which seems to be confined to a straitjacket by his literal approach to phrasing and rubato. Take the scherzo – the most stylistically coherent (and shortest) of the movements, which could almost be by Borodin. Though the basic tempo is bright, there’s a lack of tautness in the rhythm, and rubato is laid on from outside, rather than being an organic part of the music. That’s even more evident in the long ‘forest murmurs’ scene which takes up most of the slow movement. Glière may go round the houses (or trees) more than he needs to, but doing a gradual accelerando from a speed which isn’t relaxed in the first place doesn’t actually ratchet up the intensity. About the only rival in the current catalogue is Edward Downes, who shows how affectionate moulding can give Glière’s seductive sequences both direction and shape. He also deals with the sectional nature of the outer movements more coherently than Botstein, and he’s equally well served by his players and recording engineers: go for him. Martin Cotton

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