The music of Glière, a student of Taneyev, continued the traditions of the Russian and Moscow school of composition in the Soviet era.
Glière turned to the classical genre of the concerto five times (including his Concerto for Voice and Orchestra). The Harp Concerto was the first concerto he wrote and one of the first examples in the genre that were written for harp featuring a dual pedal. The concerto was written for Xenia Erdeli, a musician with the Bolshoi Theatre Orchestra and an outstanding harpist who established the solo role played by this instrument in the Soviet Union. The composer asked Xenia to amend the solo role in the concerto, and the corrections of the harpist (who herself composed for the instrument) were so significant that Glière proposed indicating her as a co-composer (she refused and, in the first editions, was mentioned as an editor).
The concerto has three movements. In its music we can see the frenzied influence of Tchaikovsky and Glazunov. The first movement is in sonata form and it opens with the soloist’s main theme (the theme is then taken up and repeated by the orchestra). The songful secondary theme is awarded to the clarinet. In the reprise, heralded by a traditional cadenza, the main role is absent. The second movement is a theme and six variations. The concerto concludes with a fast finale in sonata form. The main theme is a dance melody in the folk spirit, while in the secondary theme one can hear intonations of Soviet songs.
In Latin America, for a long time a province of the music world, no truly influential schools were established. The classical music of this region even today is represented by a few individual names, and one of the most vivid of these is that of the Argentinean composer Alberto Evaristo Ginastera who wrote three operas, two ballets and numerous instrumental works. Outside academic circles he was known for the arrangement of the finale of his piano concerto which was recorded by the rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer. In his music, Ginastera turns to pre-Columbian layers of folklore (with a particular passion for gaucho melodies). His style of working with folk material brings Bartók to mind: Ginastera gradually came to a mediated transformation of folkloric elements and later to expressionism. Among the composers whose music he admired Alban Berg must not be omitted.
The Harp Concerto (1956) relates to a period when the folkloric influence was already being expressed in separate intonations and rhythms. This was the composer’s first work in the genre. The concerto consists of three movements, the fast outer sections contrasting with the slow one which is reminiscent of Bartók’s night-time images. The first and last movements are written in free rhapsody-like form with a succession of episodes of different characters, the finale heralded by the soloist’s virtuoso cadenza.
I really love composing music for “non-standard” groups of instruments. And so, when Sofia Kiprskaya approached me with the proposal to write a piece for electric harp and percussion, I agreed immediately. The great variety of the percussion instruments, their unique colours and such an exclusive instrument as the electric harp – all of this revealed an unlimited expanse of creative imagination. But such an “unusual” grouping also demanded an “unusual” approach. I wanted to achieve some kind of “fantastical” sound.
In the novel The Sirens of Titan Kurt Vonnegut presents imaginary creatures, harmoniums. The author describes them thus:
“The harmonium is the only form of life known to us on planet Mercury. Harmoniums live in caves. It is hard to imagine more charming creatures.”
“These cave-dwelling beings really remind one of small, delicate kites that have lost their carcass.”
The endless expanses of the universe, planets, stars, fantastical creatures – all of these images were to prove incredibly suitable for this instrumental format. That’s how the idea of this piece emerged.