The three collections heard on this album all appeared in 1906-09. It was a highly productive period for Glière, with dozens of songs and piano collections to his credit, and one that saw the composition of his Symphony No. 2 (1908), the Ilya Muromets Symphony (begun in 1909), and the symphonic poem Sireni (finished in 1908). It was also his most stylistically audacious period – audacious for Glière, at any rate with such pieces as the second prelude, the third mazurka, and especially the first of the sketches (where the reduction of the theme on occasion to one or two unharmonized voices leaves the tonality repeatedly up in the air) providing a moderately more chromatic palette to his harmonies than would be true at any later point in his life.
That is also probably the first and last time you’ll find the composer’s name in any proximity to the adjective “audacious”. Glière came to musical maturity early, in an environment of Rimsky-Korsakov and Chopin. He wrote fluently in both styles, and in a way that sounded far more natural than the composers who shifted to Russian nationalism after an artistically reactionary Stalin closed down both the Radical Association for Contemporary Music (for which Roslavets was one of the leading ideologues), and the conservative Russian Association of Proletarian Musicians. As a rule, even the best ideological and musical credentials didn’t escape the father of Nations’ notice, as Miaskovsky and Shebalin experienced to their regret during the 1948 Congress of the Composers’ Union; but through it all Glière moved with ease. He may have won Stalin Prizes only three times, as opposed to Miaskovsky, who received an unprecedented six, but he never suffered the condemnation that others of his visibility and talents did.
If the ease of writing in these works impresses, so does their quality. These aren’t pale pieces designed to merely test and extend a pianist’s technique, but expressively varied, cleverly crafted, and thematically memorable works. I have to agree with Goldstone: It’s amazing that they’ve been overlooked by recitalists, though Glière’s pedagogical reputation, and the inaccessibility of his lesser-known music in the West during the Iron Curtain years, may have had much to do with this. In any case, I suspect at least the ninth, 10 th , and 11 th preludes in this collection will be showing up in recitals. Every good pianist knows that an audience likes to relax with a big, good tune, and these Rachmaninoff – like pieces have that quality in spades.
Anthony Goldstone has the technique and, equally important, the style to perform these works. Moving easily between open – gestured theatricality and a Bellini – like cantilena, he never finds himself challenged by either Glière’s romantic rhetoric or his exercises in virtuosity. With a refined sense of color in both hands, and an ability to clarify textures, the composer could hardly wish for a better advocate.
The sound is warm and close, with zealous, informed notes by Goldstone. Recommended? But of course.