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Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov: Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Opus 46 – Turkish Fragments, Opus 62 – Turkish March, Opus 55
Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Choo Hoey (Conductor)
Recording: Victoria Memorial Hall, Singapore (January 21, 1984) – 55’50
Naxos # 8.573508 (Previously released on Marco Polo #8.220217) – Booklet in English

With rare exception of Caucasian Sketches, Suite No° 1 (1894) do we hear works by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov performed. Naxos’ Marco Polo re-release is, thus, a timely discovery for those with an appetite beyond standard Russian repertoire.

Under the direction of Mily Balakirev in 1856, “The Mighty Handful” served as a governing corps to mold Russia’s music with distinct nationalistic persuasions. By 1870, however, the group disbanded, soon to be followed by another musical consortium beginning in 1885: “The Belyayev Circle” under leadership of Rimsky-Korsakov. Though both schools embraced the ideas of distinct patriotic coloring, “The Belyayev Circle” had stronger beliefs of incorporating Westernized-backed compositional training, such as Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, into composers’ œuvres. Influences of both Rimsky-Korsakov (Ippolitov-Ivanov was one of his pupils) and Tchaikovsky (whom Ippolitov-Ivanov befriended) are clearly demonstrated in the works on this CD.

Broadly speaking, Symphony No° 1 retains predominant Western European foundations (though on the lighter side) with strong implications towards rustling furor found inside Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake. Choo Hoey’s violin sweeps nudge at incessant restlessness while the clarinet solo lines tie together the movement’s three part form. A wondrous Mendelssohnian moto perpetuo runs inside the “Scherzo” alongside tussles of mood swings. Ippolitov-Ivanov’s use string articulation leads the “Elegia” that soon transforms into a vein of Russian Orthodoxy sacraments…this theme lightens yet never runs far from a sense of piousness and solemnity. Reminiscence of a farandole and orchestral dialogue found inside Bizet’s “A deux cuartos” from Carmen (1875) is enough of a reminder as to how Ippolitov-Ivanov wrote his “Finale.” The moment is colorful. Singapore Symphony’s majestic horns nicely annunciate the melody line while strings dig away by use of pizzicati, adding a subdominant harmonic texture…Rimsky-Korsakov resurfaces.

After completing studies in St. Petersburg, Ippolitov-Ivanov’s first assignment was conductor of the orchestra in Tbilsi, Georgia. This was a likely locus where his musical élan blossomed beyond Westernized boundaries and favoring draws towards the Turkish culture.

Turkish Fragments (1930) is just that: rudimentary mini-vignettes featuring cleanly illustrated musical ideas…a bit of a Ferde Grofé Grand Canyon Suite (1929-1931) reminder. Ippolitov-Ivanov had a certain economy of musical landscaping. An entrée of melodic cor anglais proffers the Turkish influences in warm, waltz-like fashion, distant yet distinctly exotic. The “Night” conjures Polovtsian Dances (1909) by Borodin. “Festival” is off to a quick start with xylophone crescendo bringing to mind Katchaturian’s Sabre Dance (1948), but there’s a lull inside the center core. Ippolitov-Ivanov is faithful to a composition’s tripartite formation. In this case, he again returns to the energetic original theme with rushing roulades and a final xylophone snap.

Despite brevity, the Turkish March blesses the listener with lilting impressions akin to Alexander Glazunov’s “Mazurka” found in Act III’s Raymonda (1898). Choo Hoey’s brass fanfare pulsates in a grand stance to close out the composition.

Liner notes, though brief, are informative. Since this is a re-issue, unfortunately, sound enhancement is missing. The recording is a bit tinny and shallow on bass.

Christie Grimstad




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