Reinhold Glière was born in Kiev on January 11, 1875, and died in Moscow on June 23, 1956. He composed his Concerto for Coloratura Soprano and Orchestra in 1943 and is dedicated to Debhora Jakobwewna Pantofel-Netschezka. It was premiered in Moscow that year with the Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio under the direction of Aleksander Orlov. In addition to the soprano soloist, the score calls for pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons, three horns, timpani, triangle, glockenspiel, harp, and strings. Duration is about 14 minutes.
The most striking thing about the Concerto for coloratura soprano and orchestra, Op. 82, is, of course, its instrumentation. The idea of writing music without text for a singer was not new (Glière's contemporary Sergey Rachmaninov wrote perhaps the most famous such piece, the treasured Vocalise, Op. 34/14), but the idea of making a full-scale concerto for such an "instrument" certainly was. The concerto has two movements -- Andante and Allegro -- and lasts between ten and twelve minutes. A melancholy, unharmonized tune in the strings ushers in the first movement; the winds join in to fill out the texture, and the soprano promptly enters. Great spans of melody, thrown against washes of deep, rich orchestral texture, drive the movement from climax to climax. The warm Allegro has a great deal of lighthearted humor to it, and one can hear in it strands reminiscent of Tchaikovsky's ballets and even, somewhat more surprisingly, Wagner's music-dramas.