Richard Blackford

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Piano Trios
  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


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Janis IVANOVS (1906-83)
Symphony No. 8 in B minor (1956) [33.45]
Symphony No. 20 in E flat major (1981) [26.25]
Moscow Symphony Orchestra/Dmitry Yablonsky
rec. Mosfilm Studio, Moscow, Jan 1997. DDD
NAXOS 8.555740 [60.10]

Ivanovs, the quintessential late-romantic Baltic symphonist, was long-lived enough to have written in super late-romantic, populist nationalism and disillusioned nostalgic idioms. Not one of them was all that distant from the other. The early symphonies are heady with the romance of Rachmaninov, Griffes and Miaskovsky. The Eighth has Miaskovskian moments but it is a much brighter work than Miaskovsky's charcoal hues suggest. However there is something strongly redolent of Miaskovsky in the brass stresses of 7.32 onwards. Ivanovs plays an extremely athletic card in the driven and energetic allegro. Arguably the andante is too long. The sparkle of the finale recalls the folk-like innocence and derring-do of the wonderful violin concerto written at about the same time and a must-hear on the Campion label.

A quarter century later the Twentieth was Ivanovs’ last completed symphonic work. There is a No. 21 comprising only three movements of a planned four - a Brucknerian torso. No. 20 has some of the hammered violence of Alwyn's Fourth Symphony. The unusual Menuetto - Reminscenza looks back to the typical folk-dance character of his early and high Soviet works such as the Violin Concerto and Eighth Symphony. It is occasionally soused in Handelian grandeur. The final allegro con brio starts with the griping hand of tragedy mixed with Panufnik-like assaults by the brass. At one moment (1.15) this work looks to Miaskovsky's Fifth Symphony - a symphony Ivanovs surely knew. There is surprisingly little influence from Shostakovich.

These tapes have waited since 1997 for issue. I hope that further sessions are planned especially as Campion's valuable Ivanovs symphonies series seems to have stalled. By the way have you also noticed that the complete Miaskovsky symphony series from Olympia (Svetlanov) has also ground to a halt. With the tragic failure of the Olympia site this looks permanent.

Here is an Eighth full of nationalist Miaskovskian atmosphere and a more knowing Twentieth looking back in vinegary nostalgia at the gracious round dances and greenswards of the 1950s.

Ivanovs is a symphonist well worth exploring and I strongly commend this release to you.

Rob Barnett


Symphony 2 and 3 a Marco Polo 8.223331
Symphony 5 and 12 Marco Polo 8.223332
Violin Concerto (plus concertos by Sallinen and Sibelius) Campion Cameo
Symphony 1 and 2 Campion Cameo 2008
Symphony 3 and Cello Concerto Campion Cameo 2009
Symphony 4 Campion Cameo 2007
Symphony No 8 etc CAMEO 2017
Symphony 10 and Piano Concerto CAMEO 2013


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