About this Recording
8.573508 - IPPOLITOV-IVANOV, M.M.: Symphony No. 1 / Turkish Fragments / Turkish March (Singapore Symphony, Choo Hoey)

Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859–1935)
Symphony No 1 in E minor, Op 46 • Turkish Fragments, Op 62 • Turkish March, Op 55


Mikhail Mihaylovich Ippolitov-Ivanov was born at Gatchina, near St Petersburg, in 1859, the son of a mechanic employed in the royal household. In this respect he differed in background and social class from many of the nationalist Russian composers, who came in many cases from more privileged ancestry. Ippolitov-Ivanov, the first element of his name later assumed to distinguish himself from a critic of the same name, was a choirboy at St Isaac’s Cathedral and studied music at home, before entering the St Petersburg Conservatory in 1875. He was a pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov and, after completing his studies in 1882, was appointed director of the music school and conductor of the opera in Tblisi (Tifl is) in Georgia. In 1883 he married the singer Varvara Zarudnaya. It was during his eleven years residence in Georgia that he was able to make a study of the music of the region, on which he published an authoritative survey. For some years he enjoyed friendly relations with Tchaikovsky, a friendship witnessed by some thirty surviving letters between the two, with the last letters exchanged in the summer and autumn of 1893, the year of Tchaikovsky’s death, with Tchaikovsky addressing Ippolitov-Ivanov by the relatively intimate term of golubchik. In later years Ippolitov-Ivanov served as chairman of the Society of Friends of the House Museum at Tchaikovsky’s former home at Klin. Ippolitov-Ivanov had sought Tchaikovsky’s help to secure for himself a place in Moscow, and in 1893 became a professor at the Moscow Conservatory, of which he was director from 1905 until 1924. His career involved him in busy activity as a conductor for a number of opera companies, notably from 1898 to 1906 at the Mamontov Opera and the Private Opera that followed, after Mamontov’s bankruptcy. In later years he also worked in broadcasting and in musical journalism. He maintained an interest in oriental music, and particularly in the music of ethnic minorities in the Soviet Union, while preserving the harmonic vocabulary and compositional techniques he had acquired as a student. In the musical politics of his country Ippolitov-Ivanov remained generally uninvolved. He was President of the Society of Writers and Composers in 1922, and when he left Moscow Conservatory in 1924, he returned to Georgia for a time to superintend the musical life of the newly established Georgian Republic. He died in Moscow in January 1935.

Ippolitov-Ivanov’s Symphony No 1 in E minor, Op 46, was written in 1908 and dedicated to the Caucasian musician Vasily Ilyich Safonov, the son of a Cossack general, and director of the Moscow Conservatory in succession to S.I. Taneyev in 1889, later being appointed director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York, a position once held by Dvořák. Ippolitov-Ivanov was Safonov’s immediate successor as director of the Moscow Conservatory, the latter feeling himself out of sympathy with his students, affected by the political restlessness of the period.

The first movement opens with a slow introduction, followed by an Allegro, the first subject contrasted with a less restless clarinet melody. The music is in the usual symphonic first movement form, ending with the return of the opening Adagio. The Scherzo, in C major, is introduced by slower chords and a curious melodic figure that soon leads us into the moto perpetuo of the violins. The Trio, in E major, offers a contrast of mood and texture, before the repetition of the Scherzo. Clarinets and bassoons announce the opening melody of the Elegia, accompanied by a chorus of strings, suggesting the solemnity of the Russian liturgy. This is followed by a Finale in which the principal subject is passed from wind to strings and back, before the appearance of other material, a folk-song that seems strangely familiar, and a later brief excursion into a thoroughly Russian piece of wind writing.

In later life Ippolitov-Ivanov took an increasing interest in the folk-music of Turkish peoples, the music of the Uzbek, Kazakh and Turkmen, as well as that of the Western Turks and of the Arabs. The Turkish Fragments, Op 62, were written in 1930, and offer four orchestral sketches, using material of Turkish folk origin. The work is scored for a large orchestra, and is dedicated to the Azerbaijani soprano, Shevket Mamedova, one of the leading figures in the opera in Baku. It is scored for a characteristically large orchestra that includes piccolo, pairs of flutes, oboes, with cor anglais, clarinets and bassoons, three horns, two trumpets, three trombones and tuba, strings, and a percussion section including timpani, bass drum, triangle, tambourine, cymbals, oriental bells and harp, with oriental drums, an instrument Ippolitov-Ivanov also used in his Caucasian Sketches. The first of the fragments, Caravan, is marked Moderato sostenuto, tempo marciale and sets a characteristic Turkish melody in illustration of the progress of the caravan, contrasted with a middle section that offers more varied material. The second piece, At Rest, with the direction Allegretto grazioso, has an outer framework of rhythmic tranquillity, and a central section of a much livelier kind, marked Allegro vivo and introduced by a rhythmic figure on the percussion, leading to a crescendo, before tranquillity is finally restored. A similar three-part structure is used for the third of the fragments, Night, an Adagietto, where the cor anglais at first offers a Turkish melody, followed by one of those even more characteristic oriental turns of phrase that recalls Rimsky-Korsakov, in a movement without the percussion. The Turkish Fragments end with a Festival, a lively dance tune appearing above a constantly reiterated rhythmic figure in the bass. The percussion section now includes a xylophone. The dance breaks off with a Larghetto, led by an oboe, the return of the vigorous dance entrusted to French horns. The movement makes a satisfactorily animated conclusion to this short suite. The Turkish March, published in Moscow in 1932, is couched in the conventional harmonic terms that were part of Ippolitov-Ivanov’s usual musical vocabulary. The march includes melodic material that has hints of an even more popular Turkish origin.

Keith Anderson

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