GLI╚RE:  Symphony No. 3 in B Minor, Op. 42 Ilya Mourometz
Vienna State Opera Orch/Hermann Scherchen, cond.

REDISCOVERY 025 (M) (ADD) TT:  79:56

For a detailed commentary on Reinhold Gli╦re's monumental Ilya Mourometz, see the feature on the work and its many recordings on this site.  Now -- finally! -- we have on CD the historic October 1952 recording with Hermann Scherchen and the Vienna State Opera Orchestra made by Westminster. This was the first complete recording of the work (there is only one other, with Harold Farberman and the Royal Philharmonic for Unicorn-Kanchana, not available). Scherchen's was obviously made with limited rehearsal time -- there are a few orchestral slipups -- but the distinguished conductor really understands the score and the sound is well-balanced mono.  And at four seconds under eighty minutes, it just fits onto a single CD....

The very brief accompanying notes describe problems with LP issues.  The performance took two discs with the final side devoted to a lengthy suite from the same composer's Red Poppy ballet. Many issues were formatted on two LPs with a peculiar 1/3, 2/4 configuration that didn't work either on automatic changers or single-play turntables.  On some issues pressing problems caused high frequencies to cycle in and out -- and some releases were off-speed.  All of these problems have been corrected on the ReDiscovery issue, which was made from a near-perfect copy of the original Westminster LPs.  What a pleasure it is to hear this performance in a superb transfer without the usual LP surface disturbances!.  

For most listeners a somewhat truncated Ilya Mourometz will serve very nicely—there is much repetition—but Stokowski went TOO far in his 1957 Houston recording, which with its 38:10 playing time cuts half the score.  His pioneering 1940 RCA recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra was more complete (45:04).   My favorite recording remains the Nathan Rakhlin Russian Melodiya recording of 1974 which appeared on CD only in a poor transfer on Russian Disk (15025), now mercifully deleted -- and deserving a good transfer.(NOTE: a superb transfer has been released (July 2003) on Locked in the Vault—to order, visit their website: http://home.comcast.net/~litvr/ The latest Schwann/Opus lists only three Ilyas:  Edward Downes on Chandos, Donald Johanos on Naxos and Jacques Rachmilovich on EMI.

Minimal notes, home-made production and a CD label with only a hand-written ID number -- but it doesn't matter. A welcome addition to the catalog, available from ReDiscover Classics.

R.E.B. (May 2001)