ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
REINHOLD GLIERE - Symphony No. 3

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REINHOLD GLIERE - Symphony No. 3 'Il'ya Muromets' - Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra - JoAnn Falletta (Conductor) - 747313316175 - Released: February 2014 - Naxos 8.573161

Let's be blunt shall we. If I were a music conservatory composition professor, I would have failed Reinhold Glière (1875-1956) for submitting his Symphony No. 3 in B minor 'Il'ya Muromets', Op. 42 for an exam, and would have marked it with a big "F" for lack of substance and thematic development. It is one endless build-up after another endless build-up that never lead to anything. Mind you, some of these journeys are very impressive, but they fail to reach their destination. One of the trademarks of a great piece of music, especially when a symphony is concerned, is the composer's ability to create and release tension, or to present a musical problem and then resolve it. None of this ever happens in this particular symphonic work. It is always strung up so tight that listening sessions become tiresome. It's repeatedly building up to nothing. I guess you could compare that to someone narrating a long scary story around a camp fire, but never actually getting to the scary part. It's too bad, because at times it sounds like a mash up of Wagner, Richard Strauss, and Rimsky-Korsakov on steroids, and at times the colorful orchestration reveals glimpses of a great composer.

Now with that being said, the technical aspects of this new Naxos recording deserve an "A+" and the same goes for JoAnn Falletta's musical direction. I think it's safe to say that Naxos have surpassed themselves for sonic impact on this one. The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra sound more like Chicago or New York in this recording. The woodwind section players for example, deserve an award all their own for the way they project that "aviary" of bird calls in the second movement. And the levels of power and ferocity the orchestra reaches at certain points is impressive. One build-up in particular between the 15 and 17 minute marks of the final movement creates such a tidal wave of sound, including lots of bells, that ends with bass drum tremors powerful enough to register on the Richter scale, that I'm sure conductor JoAnn Falletta must have leaned forward into it to avoid being pushed off the podium. This new recording is a real bone rattler at this point. This performance does everything to evoke strong and colorful imagery, despite the fact that those visions don't quite materialize.

If you already know and love this work, than you need to get this CD. If you don't, there's plenty about this recording that might impress you enough to like it despite the symphonic argument's shortcomings.

Jean-Yves Duperron - April 2014