May 17, 2009

sirens art workWriting in the early to mid 20th Century, Reinhold learned his craft well from Arensky and Ippolitov-Ivanov, creating wonderful harmony and orchestrating. His work was praised in 1948 as continuing the Russian romantic tradition from the government, while Shostakovich, Myaskovsky, and Prokofiev were condemned for their work, thus an overwhelming acceptance from Stalin, something difficult to obtain.

Written in 1908, the same year as his second symphony a busy composing time for Gliere, the symphonic poem uses the “Sirens” from Greek mythology as the basis for his composition. Sailors would hear the magic music from the “Sirens” and their ship would be lured to the island where it would crash and sink on the hidden rocks. Both Odysseus and Orpheus used various methods to prevent themselves and their sailors from hearing the magic songs. The single 13+ minute work is divided into 5 sections as noted by the composer put performed without pause.

1…The Sea

2…The Isle of the Sirens

3…Approach of the Vessel

4…The Song of the Sirens

5…The Shipwreck

The work begins with an ominous statement in a minor key with rumbling from the kettledrum and basses in the background, yet another interesting interpretation of the expansive ever-moving ocean from a composer. It leads into a happier flighty section; a land of enchantment and peace or so thinks the sailors and the listener. The calling of the brass, with the magical melody from the “Sirens” supported by harp, flute, and celesta lead the music into a jagged yearning climax of doom, a motif very similar in nature to a passage from Gliere’s epic Third Symphony ’Ilya Murometz.’ It comes to a conclusion in a ppp with only the lower register of the orchestra.

This certainly must take its place with the likes of “Isle of the Dead,” “The Sea,” “The Island,” and other works about the body of water that encompasses over ½ the earth. To my knowledge it is the only available recording on the market although there has been a Melodiya recording (M10 39547) long out of print. The people at Naxos, in my opinion, have been able to find and make available a lot of obscure material that is quality composing, worthy of recording. While I have no other recording to compare it to I found it to be well performed and recorded. It is coupled with his 1st Symphony, a very early work that will be reviewed separately. We can assuredly put this in the category of classical recordings you don’t have but should. Recommended.

Total Time is 13:34

Performed by the Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Stephen Gunzenhauser.

Naxos CD# 8.550898