Very Enjoyable Symphony by a Russian Master of Orchestration
goodmusicman | USA | 10/12/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935) was a foremost pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov and (later) a director of the music school in Tblisi, Georgia and, from 1905 until 1924, the director of the Moscow Conservatory. Tchaikovsky took an interest in him and influences of both Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov are apparent in his music. Most of his compositions are short, ethnic-inspired works that are really fun to listen to, especially his most famous work, the last movement of the Caucasian Sketches Suite # 1, called "Procession of the Sardar."
However, he wrote very few serious works and his Symphony No. 1 in E Minor (his only symphony) is one of the few that has survived. This performance is one of the only two recordings ever made of this work (the other is by the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra conducted by Gary Brain) and its obscurity is truly a shame. The work does not pretend to be what it is not: it is not deep, it has little emotional content, and it does not pride itself on structure and form, as do the symphonies in the German repertoire. What it does offer is 36 minutes of enjoyable Russian music, including a memorable allegro first movement, a clever, Borodinesque scherzo, a lyrical slow movement, and an exciting, rousing finale. It is well played by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (which has 90 players) under the direction of Choo Hoey. The orchestra is clearly not one of the finest in the world, but they obviously enjoy playing this music and that enjoyment is conveyed to the listener as well.
The remaining works are the Turkish Fragments and March, both available on (the only) Naxos CD dedicated to music by this composer, played by the National SO of the Ukraine. Choo Hoey's performance is sufficiently distinct from the Ukrainian performance to merit listening even if you already own the Naxos CD. The Singaporians inject more of a dance-like bounce into the Fragments, making this performance the more enjoyable of the two. The March is given a very exciting performance here. The sound quality throughout is clear and satisfying.
All in all, if you consider yourself a fan of Russian orchestral music, this CD is a must-own, and even if you're not, it makes for very pleasant listening. The CD is now available brand new directly from Amazon. Get it while you still can!"
A distinctive and interesting symphony
Mr Russell S. Wollman | Fairfield, Iowa United States | 07/24/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ippolitov-Ivanov, I have read, was a very good man, content just to compose rather than become embroiled in the controversies of the Russian cultural millieu. His music is colorful, spirited, and expressive.
His lone symphony is an oddball in a crowded field. Symphonies are, perhaps, a composer's defining work. Maybe I-I felt like he had to write one, but I doubt that. I was fascinated with his symphony at first hearing, because there's nothing else like it. He borrowed little. He did not strive to impress or overwhelm. But the work has a curious and very individual charm and grace, with humorous little touches that make it lighter and easier to digest. Yet it still provides the nourishment of listening to a good symphony. His sound is like no other composer's; his orchestration is more quiet and thoughtful, more introspectively Russian than explosively Russian--though the lively Finale begins with a bang.
There's another recording of this work with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra under Gary Brain on the Conifer label (75605 51317 2). That disc includes the Armenian Rhapsody, the Caucasian War March, and Mtzyri's Symphonic Poem.
The orchestra and sound are better on this disc, but it may be almost impossible to find. I'm keeping mine. This is one of my favorite symphonic works."