By Mary Kunz Goldman
This great video I found on YouTube lets you preview Gliere's fantastic Symphony No. 3 from all its outrageous and supernatural angles. That is the symphony that the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is bringing to Carnegie Hall next week. The BPO also is playing it Saturday (May 3) at 8 p.m. at Kleinhans Music Hall.
The video -- while the performers are not the BPO -- immerses you in the symphony by taking you through the legend of Ilya Muromets, the fantastical Russian warrior hero that inspired Gliere's music. The music is very programmatic ... you can hear what the pictures say is going on. And there are not so many pictures that it distracts you too much from the listening.
The Russian imagination can be overwhelming. Among the figures Ilya Muromets encounters are:
-- A knight on horseback who towers over the treetops
-- A creature called the Nightingale Monster who kills and threatens people with his whistle
-- The Russian emperor Vladimir who tells Ilya: "You are now a Bogatyr."
A Bogatyr is a special kind of Russian knight.
The stakes are high. Gliere is a lush and hugely expansive symphony. It requires supreme endurance on the part of the musicians. It also requires a lot of musicians -- one of a number of reasons that it is so seldom performed. And the musicians all have to work extremely hard.
But the hard work is worth it. The music brims with color and imagination. You do not have to be a scholar to be able to tell that Gliere was a master orchestrator. A scene set in a forest with birdcalls is tremendously, hauntingly realistic.
Saturday's BPO performance is preceded by two things not to miss:
At 7 p.m., Roman Mekinulov, principal cellist, has been prevailed upon to give a pre-concert talk. Mekinulov is from St. Petersburg, Russia and his parents, who now live in New York, will be at the Carnegie Hall performance.
At 7:30 p.m. in the Mary Seaton Room, there will be a champagne toast to the BPO's return Wednesday to Carnegie Hall.