GLIÈRE: Symphony No. 3 in B minor, Op. 42 Il'ya Muromets
RUBINSTEIN: Symphony No. 6 in A minor, Op. 111. Don Quixote - Humoresque
for Orchestra, Op. 87.
RACHMANNOFF: The Bells, Op. 35. Symphonic Dances, Op. 45.
PAINE: Overture to As You Like
It, Op. 28, Shakespeare's Tempest, Op. 31.Symphony No. 1 in C minor,
Reinhold Glière's mighty Symphony No. 3 has been a favorite of mine ever since I first heard the powerful Hermann Scherchen/Vienna State Opera Orchestra mono Westminster recording more than six decades ago, the first totally complete recording. There is a detailed discussion of this unique work on this site that explains it in detail and mentions all recording of it (FEATURE). Glìere (1875-1958) was honored and respected during his time, but today i remembered mostly for the "Russian Sailor's Dance" from the ballet The Red Poppy. His masterpiece, symphony No., 3, can be enjoyed now in this superb new recording from rather unlikely forces: the Buffalo Philharmonic directed by JoAnn Falletta. The orchestra featured this symphony this past season and took it to Carnegie Hall where it was enthusiastically received. Falletta has been fascinated by this masterpiece for years, and her enthusiasm and understanding of the work's mysteries are apparent. The work was recorded in Buffalo's Kleinhans Music Hall May 3 -5, 2013, engineered by Tim Handley. Falletta states the performance is uncut. However, complete recordings by other conductors require considerably more time: Scherchen (79:56), Sir Edward Downes (78:08), Igor Golovchin (75:21), and, my favorite, Nathan Rakhlin (75:09). The Buffalo performance is 71:40. However, it never sounds rushed, and there is a convincing cohesives sound to the performance. The Buffalo orchestra was expanded to fulfill all of the scores demands, including eight French horns (heard to mighty effect in their forte solos just before the last movement's fantastic climax. This huge score benefits from an assist from the engineers. The super-soft violin passages so important in the second movement are played sul ponticello (played near the bridge of the instrument) creating an eerie sound - but it could be helped by close-up engineering. It is so quiet on this new recording it is almost inaudible. And that magic moment in the finale when violins restate one of the memorable early themes also could use some help—surely Stokowski had it in his famous 1957 Houston recording (so cut that it takes but 38:10). Otherwise, we have the sound of a huge orchestra recorded in a resonant acoustic. This is a superb recoding of Glière's score—don't miss it!
Of much lesser interest is orchestral music of Anton Rubinstein (1829-1894). He was of major importance during his era, considered to be the leading virtuoso pianist and conductor, and founder of the St. Petersburg Conservatory. His playing had a profound impact on Rachmaninoff, who was amazed by Rubinstein's mastery. Rubinsteine also composed profusely, 20 operas the best known of which is The Demon, five piano concertos, concertos for violin and cello, chamber music and six symphonies. Over the years, Naxos has been doing their bit to give collectors an opportunity to hear music of Rubinstein. With this reissue of Symphony No. 6 and music for Don Quixote the label completes their series previously issued on the Marco Polo label. The symphony was recorded in July 1986, Don Quixote in July 1985. Audio is adequate, far removed from state-of-the-art sonics heard on recent recordings on Naxos. The music is pleasant enough, big-scale unmemorable works by a composer who is remembered by most for his four-minute piano solo Melody in F.
These Rachmaninoff performances were recorded during concerts in Berlin's Philharmonie November 2010 (Bells) and and November 2012). It always is a pleasure to hear this great orchestra play the Russian's music, and these are outstanding performance except for the choice of Olga Orgonásova as soprano soloist in the important second movement of The Bells. The Russian soprano has had a distinguished career, and was in fine form in 2006 when she recorded the soprano solo in Mahler' Symphony No. 4 with David Zinman on the podium. Unfortunately her voice how has an edgy wobble I find highly distracting. Audio is reasonably good if not outstanding. You can watch Sir Simon and the BPO performing Rachmaninoff on DVD: Symphonic Dances (REVIEW), Symphony No. 2 (REVIEW), Piano Concerto No. 3 (REVIEW).
Russia had their "five" nationalistic composers (Mussorgsky, Balakirev, Cui, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin) who promoted a Russian approach to music of their time; the United States had their own "Boston Six" John Knowles Paine (1839-1908) along(with Amy Beach (18671944), Arthur Foote (1853-1937), Edward MacDowell (1860-1908), George Chadwick (1854-1931) and Horatio Parker (1863-1919). Paine was leader of this group. He was an important figure on America's musical scene, as a composer, and as a conductor—he was guest conductor of the Boston Symphony for several concerts that included is own music, and a fonder of the American Guild of Organists. Paine composed one opera (Azara), two symphonies, a number of works for chorus and orchestra, and much music ac for the organ. This fine new issue offers his Symphony No. 1 (which also was recorded by Nubbin Meta with the New York Philharmonic) along with an overture and a suite of incidental music. Paine's music is always pleasant, occasionally moderately exciting and always well-orchestrated. This music is well worth hearing, and surely these splendid performances by the Irish orchestra directed by JoAnn Falletta. These recordings were made October 2012, and the engineering is excellent. This is a major release in the discography of 19th Century American music.
R.E.B. (April 2014)