Symphony No. 1/Ippolitov-Ivanov
August 4, 2013
If one would put composers into a rating system we would classify Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935) as a ‘B’ or unsung composer whose regularly performed work is all or part of Caucasian Sketches Suite No. 1, Op. 10 (1894). I ponder that even the 1st movement, “In A Mountain Pass” or the third movement “In A Mosque” is used more as a filler piece being included on Russian festival recordings. The 10 or 4 minute length seems to be ideal. The bulk of his work has either never been performed or published. One of the rare exceptions is his first symphony, an early recording of what was to become Naxos.
Ippolitov-Ivanov studied under Rimsky-Korsakov at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and his influence upon his writing is quite evident to the point that even a trained ear could easily confuse one for the other. He went on to become the director of the Moscow Conservatory from 1905-1924 as well as an unofficial expert on the folk music of the Turkish people. The other two works on this CD Turkish Fragments, Op. 62 and Turkish March, Op.55 are examples.
Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 46 was written in 1908 while director of the Moscow Conservatory and is a splendid example of the Rimsky-Korsakov sound. The wind section shares the melody with the strings as each also contributes harmony with the brass section also contributing as the music increases to an allegro tempo. The movement alternates between andante and allegro and ends on a quiet note fading into nothing except for three pizzicato string bars. The scherzo begins with a lively folk dance melody before it segues into slower chords with harmony provided by the string bass, a striking contrast to what we heard earlier. A majestic chord introduces another quiet section before it returns to the lively scherzo and concludes. The elegiac melody is introduced by the woodwinds with harmony provided by the strings who eventually take over the theme with the woodwinds providing harmony. There is a pause before the bassoon with woodwind support continues the melody with pizzicato strings in the background. The oboe ends the movement and the fourth and final movement is started without pause causing the listener to come to attention if the elegy had caused one’s eyes to close. The lively melody is allowed full development before Ivanov a second folk melody. The work ends with loud percussion and a rousing ending.
Turkish Fragments Op. 62 was written in 1930 toward the end of his life and is a good example of his study of the Turkish folk songs. The four melodies seem to have a cohesive fit to each other and one has to recognize the Rimsky-Korsakov influence. I say influence because Ivanov’s stamp is also on the piece. Pay particular attention to the cor anglais solo which introduces the third movement.
Turkish March, Op. 55 published in 1932 has the sound and oriental flavor of a coronation/festival march. Filled with sweeping strings and staccato brass statements one can immediately recognize the Ivanov/Korsakov sound to the piece.
While this recording has been officially deleted from the Naxos catalog it can still be found as a new or used CD. It is one that I plan on returning to on a regular basis as it has much to offer the listener. Recommended.
Symphony No. 1 in E Minor
1…Adagio-Allegro risoluto (14:48)
4…Finale:Allegro moderato (7:09)
6…At Rest (5:13)
Turkish March (4:55)