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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Amiable and undemanding music from Pre-Revolutionary Russia, 25 May 2009
This review is from: Glière - Symphony No 1; The Sirens (Audio CD)
These are old recordings now, having originally been set down in 1985 and issued on the Marco Polo label, first on vinyl and then on CD. The sound quality of some Marco Polo recordings was more than a little variable, but I'm happy to say that this disc stands up pretty well after two and a half decades.

The symphony dates from 1899-1900, while Gliere was still a student at the Moscow Musical Conservatory. The notes don't state whether its composition was part of his studies (his graduation piece was apparently an opera after Byron) but it has all the trademarks of a work by a Russian conservatory trained graduate: the twin influences of Glazunov and Tchaikovsky, occasional nods towards the Russian nationalist composers, technical polish and not a jot of originality.

It's still an attractive and fluent work, though. After a slow introduction, the primary subject of the sonata form opening movement is insistently memorable and charming - it might be too long and self-contained for development in the traditional manner of German symphonism, but Gliere puts it through its paces effectively. "Effective" pretty much sums up this amiable work as a whole really - for passing a pleasant half an hour or so with little demand on your intellect, you won't go far wrong with this piece and you may well come away humming the melodies to yourself for a while afterwards.

The coupling is a rarely heard tone poem that is exquisitely orchestrated; happily, as the vivid but delicate scoring is the piece's real strength, the recording catches every detail admirably. Orchestration aside, it is quite an ordinary piece, with its naïvely executed programme and rather anonymous melodic writing. There are a few echoes of Tchaikovsky in the way some climaxes are (at times mechanically) constructed and, now and then, I even thought I heard the odd reminiscence of Scriabin's `Poem of Ecstasy', though that seems unlikely given the conservative cast of Gliere's music in general.

If you are a fan of Russian music from this period, you'll probably find much to enjoy on this disc. I think Gliere could quite justly be charged with producing an `easy listening' symphony, but the music here is still attractive and doesn't really outstay its welcome. I don't think I would pay full price to hear the Chandos recording of the symphony, but at bargain price on Naxos (and with a symphonic poem thrown in that doesn't appear to be available anywhere else on CD) you wouldn't have much to lose by taking a punt on this version.
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Glière - Symphony No 1; The Sirens
Glière - Symphony No 1; The Sirens by Reinhold Glière (Audio CD - 1995)
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