WORKS: Concerto for Harp and Orchestra; Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra
PERFORMER: Rachel Masters (harp), Eileen Hulse (soprano)City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9094 DDD
Glière, whom most musicians know only as the composer of the ‘classic’ Soviet ballet The Red Poppy, was already 42 at the time of the October Revolution. But he survived (the operative word) for nearly another 40 years, apparently composing in much the same style, apart from the addition of a few politically correct Central Asian ethnic touches. Glière was lucky. A natural musical descendant of Borodin, he seldom challenged establishment views of the artistically acceptable, and he had the enviable knack of keeping a low profile.
The two concertos by him on this record are both Soviet pieces from the Thirties and Forties, but could easily have been written 30 or 40 years earlier. They are sumptuous, high Romantic, vaguely (but not astringently) folksy, and unfailingly expert. In such polished performances as these, with Eileen Hulse outstanding in the difficult high-lying vocalise of the coloratura concerto, they are easy to enjoy, though perhaps also easy to forget.
Ginastera’s harp concerto is another matter. Oddly enough it was begun in the year of Glière’s death (1956). Pungently and vigorously (rather than dutifully) ethnic, it shows the uneven Argentine master at something like his best, and is sparkling played by the admirable Rachel Masters.
The problem of balancing the harp and orchestra is also well solved in a recording that nevertheless sounds perfectly natural. Stephen Walsh