Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Glière - Symphony No. 1

Reinhold Glière attended the Moscow Conservatory and was taught by some of the best music teachers in Russia in the late 19th century.His studies included the violin and the usual harmony and theoretical subjects. One of his main influences was Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov who taught him composition and instrumentation. He graduated with high honors in 1900 and shortly after began teaching at the Gnessin School of Music in Moscow.

He began writing the first symphony during his final year of school in 1899 and finished the work in 1900.  It is solidly cast in the tradition of Russian symphonies by Tchaikovsky. Glière especially shines in his use of the orchestra. There are some that discount Glière as a symphonist, but I disagree. At the very least he wrote with a firm orchestral and compositional technique, and his earliest symphony is a pleasure to listen to, even if it doesn't hit the depths or the heights.  He only wrote three symphonies with his last one being his masterpiece, Symphony No. 3 Ilya Muromets.

Symphony No. 1 in E-flat is in 4 movements:
Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov
I. Andante - Allegro moderato - Andante - The first movement begins with a gentle introduction played by the clarinet. The oboe soon takes up the tune, and the strings continue to set the mood. This introduction contains bits and pieces that gel into the first theme which is ushered in with the oboe and clarinet taking turns before the full orchestra has its say with the theme. There is additional material played after the first theme and this leads directly into the second theme. The clarinet plays the mellow and lyrical second theme. The horns take up the second theme, and after a slow winding down of  the music the development section begins with the oboe leading the way for the first theme's expansion. A chromatic development has the theme rise in pitch and intensity. Rumbling snatches of the second theme are next to be developed. A climax is reached and quickly subsides as the recapitulation begins. The two main themes are repeated with obligatory key change given to the second theme. The horn plays the second theme, trading off with the oboe. The four horns once again nobly play the second theme. The coda is short, and the movement ends with the identical slow introduction that opened it.

II. Allegro molto vivace - The second movement is a scherzo written in 5 beats to the bar:
 After a short introduction for horns, cellos and basses, the violins and violas scamper along in eighth notes with the 5/4 time signature translating to 2+3 beats to the bar. The woodwinds take up the scamper, and the music modulates and grows into a tripping stomp before it dies back down to the opening figure in the violins. The trio is begun by the clarinet and manages to smooth out the tripping quality of the 5/4 time signature somewhat. The music swells in volume as the trio is interrupted by the beginning scampering figure a few times until the trio is silenced and the scherzo proper returns. The movement ends with a loud chord by the orchestra.

III. Andante - A slow (but not too slow) lyrical melody in G minor with a Russian flavor begins the movement. It slowly unwinds, slightly ebbs and flows until it melts into another gentle theme played by the oboe. The first theme is elaborated on, the music continues to unwind and Glière shows how well he learned about the orchestra from Ippolitov-Ivanov. The music reaches a climax shortly before the end. It dies down after that to a poignant end.

IV. Finale : Allegro - A short introduction by the horns and orchestra before the rapid dance tune begins. The second theme is right in keeping with the mood of the movement. The development section begins straight away with a motive played from the first theme. The music gets a little more intense as the first them continues to be developed. The horns play the secondary theme as the woodwinds chirp an accompaniment. After the rather straight-forward (but pleasant) development, the first dance tune appears in full to begin the recapitulation. The second theme appears, the music comments on the opening of the first theme, and the movement ends.

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