Mr. Kirill Novosselski, the great grandson of Ukrainian composer and music teacher Reinhold Moritsevich Glière, aspires to recapture the renown that once accompanied the composer during his lifetime. And he thinks this is already happening.
Mr. Novosselski lives in Moscow and teaches Economic Geography at the university. Although he is not a musician, he enjoys his grandfather’s many compositions, which number more than 400. Mr. Novosselski never gets tired of “Voice Concerto,” “Harp Concerto,” the symphonic poem ”Sireny,” and many others.
“I guess it's their complexity, richness in melody and color, as well as optimistic mood—exactly these qualities that attract more and more generations of performers and listeners.”
Kirill Novosselski closely follows the events around the world connected with Glière. Interest in these pieces has grown in recent years, unfortunately more abroad than in his homeland.
“We are renovating our grandfather's memorial apartment in downtown Moscow, where we usually organize chamber concerts and answer questions for music scholars. It is sad, though, that sometimes we need to order Glière’s CDs from London or New York for the concerts. However, we are doing our best to promote his works worldwide.”
A few days ago he found out that Teatro dell'Opera di Roma is going to present Glière’s most famous, colorful, and controversial ballet, "The Red Poppy" this November.
“We hope that [this] event will start a new wave of well-earned fame.”
Sweet Memories of a Beloved Grandfather
Glière’s great grandson was born in April, 1956, two and a half months before the composer’s death. In a congratulatory message to his granddaughter Senta, Kirill’s mother, proposed: "We were just discussing a possible name for my great grandson that would be pleasant to bear for his whole life… Come back soon, and we'll choose the name together—to the infant's joy!"
When he heard that the parents were going to name the baby Nikita, Glière strongly opposed the decision: "Never give a baby a name similar to the current country's leader [Nikita Khrushchev was in power in Communist USSR at that time]. Politicians come and go, and are often infamous—the boy will be teased by his classmates. Let him be, say Kirill.'
“Thus Reinhold Moritsevich became my godfather,” Kirill explained.
Glière is remembered as a very wise, kind, and amiable man. His daughter Liya shared that although the five children of Reinhold and Maria Glière loved their mother and father equally, they usually turned to Reinhold to discuss their problems, ranging from when they had a “minor finger injury, up to a sudden pregnancy.” Instead of expressing disappointment or anger, the composer always used to say: "Sit down, my dear! Let's find the solution together…”
Watch and listen to Reinhold Gliere's Waltz:
Staying Apolitical Despite the Communist Regime
In public life Glière was equally altruistic. He successfully combined a sense of patriotism and internationalism.
In 1941, when the Nazis attacked Moscow, Glière spent his nights on duty on the roof of the Composers' House, catching and destroying candle bombs. Yet he was never a communist and remained totally apolitical during his whole life. He never met Stalin, and even at his highest public position as the President of the All-USSR Composers' Union between 1938 and 1948, he agreed that "all routine activities will be undertaken by his friend and deputy Aram Khachaturian, " according to Novosselski.
In fact, he was often criticized for his lack of interest in political activities.
"Feeling the purity of sounds," as he used to say, was his top priority during his lifetime. Organizing those sounds into pleasant and meaningful melodies took most of his time. What made him really happy was the serene atmosphere at home or at his villa in the countryside.
Inspiring Teacher of Prokofiev and Mjaskovskii
The musical talent of Reinhold Moritsevich Glière (1875-1956) was discovered at a very young age. His parents each had a musical background but neither approved of his choice of music for his career.
After studying violin and later piano, Glière graduated from the Moscow conservatory in 1900 with the highest marks (a gold medal) in composition, proclaiming as his model teacher/professor Sergei Ivanovich Taneev, who at that time was deemed “the very top professor in Moscow,” according to Novosselski.
Taneev recommended Glière to tutor two of his pupils in 1902—wunderkind Sergei Prokofiev (then 10 years-old) and Nikolai Mjaskovski (who was working as a military engineer), despite Glière’s having just graduating from the conservatory.
In the book "Prokofiev—His Life and Times," the author Natalia Savkina explains how young Sergei just loved his teacher. Glière diligently explained musical forms and harmony, thus rousing the interest and the curiosity of his pupil.
“Glière had thick black hair, a moustache, a violin in his hands. He stooped a little, his face had a grave look, but the eyes, set wide apart under bushy eyebrows, were ready to smile at any moment. He managed to gain the boy's love, for even his slightly old-fashioned politeness could not conceal the fact that he was essentially kind, simple, and hearty, just as was his music. The young instructor was a man of few words, but that was no obstacle to their friendship; whenever help or advice was needed, he revealed himself as a generous and magnanimous person,” according to Ms. Savkina's text.
Nikolai Mjaskovski was quite a different type of student than the willful youngster Prokofiev. He was shy and often dissatisfied with himself. Nevertheless, Glière believed in his talent and encouraged him to go on with composing.
In her book about Mjaskovski, Soya Konstantinova Gulinskaja notes:
“The lessons in musical harmony with Glière let him find his faith of his own powers, his psychic crisis overcome. He wrote to his sister: 'Now I’m totally calm…. I found my way, and to this way I remain faithful.'"
A Composer of All Nations
Glière's ancestry has long been debated. Kirill Novosselski tells a charming story from Glière’s lifetime, which he heard from his aunt Liya.
During a private party, where many friends and his pupils gathered to celebrate some anniversary, Glière was asked: "Professor! We've heard and read a lot of different versions about your nationality: you were born in a German-Polish family in Kiev, educated and married in Moscow, now live and work in the Soviet Union. The Jewish Encyclopedia says that you have Jewish origins; in one of your portraits in Baku (the capital of former Russian republic Azerbaijan) your face looks like a native Azeri… Please, tell us the truth: who are you?"
Glière was silent for a moment and then said loudly: "Concerning my ancestors—a very long time ago some of them lived in the Alps (Plateau des Glières), and not so long ago—in Germany (Klingenthal). As for myself—of course, I'm Russian—due to the fact that I've spent most of my life in Moscow, my own and my family's mother tongue is Russian, and Russian classical and folk culture deeply inspires me. But I feel happy that so many other people—Ukrainians, Jews, Germans, French, Azeris, etc.—consider me 'their composer.'
“Please, remember, my dear,” said Glière finally, “that it is much better when everywhere you're received and respected as a relative (“their kin, own” -- "svoi" in Russian), and not as a stranger (“foreign, others’”—"chuzhoi" in Russian)!"
He wanted other people to share his motto.
Nowadays there are relatives of Glière all over the world. According to Mr. Novosselski the whole Glière family amounts to about 1,000 people, including the other side of the family. He says there are relatives in Russia, Europe, and the United States (including Ohio, New York and Kentucky), as well as in Brazil.
Ironically, nobody really inherited his talent! Reinhold's request for his five children was simple: "Please, don't play music at home!" Thus, only Leonid played piano a little, and his granddaughter Senta is a children's choir conductor.
When referring back to the first Glière, born in 1504, Mr. Novosselski said, “My kids, who are the 17th generation from the bottom of the kin tree, all attend music lessons at school, and play violin and guitar.”
This article was realized with the courteous help of Kirill Novosselski and Joerg Schnadt, both relatives of the composer Reinhold Glière.