Reinhold Gliere (1874-1956)
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Reinhold Moritsevich Gliere was born on January 11, 1875 in Kiev. His ancestors were from Central and Eastern Europe, his father and grandfather were craftsmen of musical instruments. At a young age he studied violin and studied at the Kiev Musical College as a violinist. In 1894, he entered Moscow Conservatory where he studied as a violinist, and took courses of harmony, polyphony and musical form. He considered S. Taneev to be his most important teacher. He graduated in 1900 as a composer.
Starting from 1901 he taught harmony in the Gnessin musical college . Through recommendations from Taneyev he gave lessons on harmony to Nikolai Myaskovsky (1903) and to the very young Sergei Prokofiev (1902-1904).
The first public performance of Glier’s music took place on January 11, 1901 - it was his string octet played by professors and students of the Conservatory. On December 21, 1902 there was a premiere of his 1st Symphony conducted by V.Safonov.
In 1906-08 Gliere studied conducting in Germany and after his return to Russia started performing as a conductor mainly of his own compositions. In 1911 he composed his major work, the third symphony, “Ilya Murometz”.
In 1913 he was appointed a professor at the Kiev Conservatory and was its director for six years before he was appointed professor of composition at the Moscow Conservatory, where he remained from 1920 until his retirement in 1941. He was chairman of the USSR Composers’ Union from 1938 to 1948. Many well-known composers were his former students (B.Alexandrov, L.Knipper, A.Mosolov, A,Khachaturyan, and others). In 1927 he composed his most famous work, the ballet, “The Red Poppy”.
Gliere was a follower of realistic traditions of Russian classical music, mainly influenced by Tchaikovsky, Borodin and Taneyev. He was the key link between the 19th century romantics and the Soviet composers. His works are characterized by romanticism and he was greatly impressed by the the Russian byliny movement of the late 19th century. His expressive melodies and colorful orchestrations are what he is most remembered for.
Gliere is the author of 5 operas, several ballets, orchestral works, many chamber and instrumental pieces, and vocal music. He died in Moscow in 1956, aged 81 and was buried in Novodevichy cemetery near his students Myaskovsky and Prokofiev.