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.
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