Ippolitov-Ivanov

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Ippolitov-Ivanov
LABELS: Conifer
WORKS: Mtzyri; Symphony No. 1; Armenian Rhapsody; Caucasian War March
PERFORMER: Claudia Barainsky (soprano)Bamberg SO/Gary Brain
CATALOGUE NO: 75605 51317 2
Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935) gained a certain fame with his once popular Caucasian Sketches, but his music displays little real individuality. He leans heavily on his mentor, Rimsky-Korsakov, on Balakirev, Borodin (in his less inspired moments) and, above all, on Arensky, who shares his tendency to hit on a promising idea and work it relentlessly to death. The most substantial piece here is the Symphony, which the score proudly designates No. 1, though the composer was never to write a second. But structurally it’s the least satisfying, with the six-note motif in the opening bars reiterated obsessively throughout the first movement. Even the Elegia, despite its obvious debt to Tchaikovsky’s Marche slave, is a pretty anaemic affair. Yet whatever the music lacks in oomph, it does have a certain charm, and Brain plays it for its popular appeal, rather than for any imagined intellectual quality.

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The other items are more convincing. The Caucasian War March is closely knit in design and venturesome in tonal exploration, while Mtzyri contains a realistic storm and some attractive singing from Claudia Barainsky. Again, Brain’s approach is well-judged. I doubt if even a Rozhdestvensky could make much of the half-hearted fight between the mtzyri and the panther. Wadham Sutton