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Reinhold GLIÈRE (1875-1956)
Piano Music
25 Preludes Op.30 [52:34]
Romance Op.16 No.2 [3:24]
Kinderstücke Op/31 (selection) [7:28]
From 12 sketches Op.47 [1:58]
Two piano pieces Op.99 [4:41]
Gianluca Imperato (piano)
rec. Bartok Studio, Bernareggio, Italy, 2016

Too often composers’ reputations rest on few works, sometimes on a sole piece. In the case of Reinhold Glière it rests on some numbers from his ballet The Red Poppy, especially the ‘Russian Sailors’ Dance’, some from The Bronze Horseman and his massive symphony Ilya Murometz but when were any of them ever programmed?; I should guess rarely; I have never heard of a performance of either ballet outside of Eastern Europe, however it is pleasing to note that Naxos did release a complete recording of The Red Poppy in 1995.

On the evidence presented here Glière’s piano music is very rewarding and worthy of resurrection for concert performance. The booklet implies that Glière’s homage to Chopin could be said to have been somewhat overindulgent. In fact it goes on to say that in his music there are also clear traces of Liapunov, Scriabin (also said to have surfeited in his homage to Chopin), Glinka, Mussorgsky, Rachmaninov and Glazunov. Does this imply that Glière showed little originality or that composers should try to steer clear of any influences? How can they not be influenced by their contemporaries or by those who have gone before and would they be any better for trying not to be? The proof of the pudding is in the eating it is said, so let’s start from that premise.

The above-mentioned influences are said to be most evident in his 25 Preludes Op.30 which Glière composed in 1907. They are demanding pieces and Gianluca Imperato certainly rises to the challenge, delivering mature and thoughtful interpretations of these delightfully varied preludes. Booklet writer Luca Segalla admits that “Glière always manages to invest what he borrows with originality, translating his various sources of inspiration into a cohesive musical fabric”. Yes, it is true that Chopin is clearly there in the second and that Scriabin is much in evidence in the fifth and that the same can be said for several more, but they are all genuinely musically interesting and enjoyable in their own right and isn’t that the yardstick by which they should be judged? I doubt very much if there are any listeners who will not be won over by their effortless charm.

The Romance op.16 no.2 from 1904 is another piece replete with lyrical allure while the Kinderstücke op.31 from 1907 provide yet more examples of Glière’s facility for simple tunes, which he manages to inject with a grace that easily captivates the listener. Though this disc gives us only a taste with four examples it certainly encourages further exploration.

Two sketches from the twelve he wrote in 1909 come next and show the influence first of Mussorgsky then a whiff of Prokofien ‘modernism’. The last two pieces on this disc are from the end of Glière’s life and as Luca Segalla writes they show that he could “still pen music that was remarkably refined, calm and melancholy, suspended in time, or beyond the reach of events”. They are both first recordings as are the Romance op.16 no.2 and the Kinderstücke op.31 which left me wondering how much more of Glière’s music remains unheard. Perhaps if it that situation involves more piano music then we might see Gianluca Imperato bring them to disc since he seems so convinced of their merit, which his playing amply demonstrates.

Steve Arloff

Previous review: Rob Barnett



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