JANIS IVANOVS (1906 - 1983)
Janis Ivanovs was born on 9 October1906 in a small Latvian town called Preili. He graduated in 1931 from the Latvian State Conservatory in Riga, where his studied compositions with Jazeps Vitols and conducting with Georg Schnéevoight. He continued post-graduate studies with Vitols until 1933. In 1931 he began a long association with Latvian Radio, eventually becoming the artistic director of the Latvian Radio Committee. In 1944 he joined the faculty of the Latvian State Conservatory, becoming full professor in 1955. He was president of the Latvian Composers Union and was awarded the titles Peoples Artist of the Latvian SSR (1956) and Peoples Artist of the USSR (1965). Janis Ivanovs died in 1983 after completing three movements of his Symphony No. 21.
Ivanovs is considered Latvias most distinguished symphonist. His grasp of orchestral colour and musical texture was so extraordinary that his colleagues often praised him for his precise, expressive, and nationalistic musical idiom. Had be only written his Fourth (Atlantida), Fifth or Sixth (Latgales) Symphonies, he would have left an indelible mark on music history. However, he composed 21 symphonies, three concertos for various instruments, cello, violin, and piano, five symphonic poems, three string quartets, and numerous vocal, piano and chamber works.
The bulk of Ivanovs compositions is orchestral. Stylistically his early works show influences of Scriabin and his later works that of Prokofiev and Shostakovich. These, however, are just passing influences. The hand of the mature master is evident all his works, early or late. The language is distinctly Ivanovs, nationalistic, dynamic, powerful, dramatic. "Janis Ivanovs is like thunder and lightening, cleansing the air with his Lucifer sounds. His symphonies are like ancient Greek tragedies, filled with ecstasy and purification." So wrote another Latvian composer and music critic, Margers Zarins. Although every composition of Ivanovs delivers something fresh and unusual, we also hear the familiar. His music provides us with an unusual sense of intimacy. Here is a composer who is speaking to us, perhaps battling something, defending us from obstacles and taking us on a safe and welcome path. His love of melody is evident in all his works. In fact, the melodic content is the essence of each of his compositions. Ivanovs drew upon the native songs of the Latgale district (eastern Latvia) for his inspiration. Latgales folk-music combines both Slavic sadness and restrained beauty. this is definitely a trademark of Ivanovs music. Pathos, colour, intensity, tightness of structure and expansiveness of musical ideas are also concern-stones of his style.