JANIS IVANOVS (1906-83) Symphony No 4 Atlantis (1941) * 52:26 Rainbow - Symphonic Poem (1939) 10:33 Latvian National SO/Vassili Sinaisky * Dzintars Women's Choir Campion Cameo 2007 62:59

I cannot over-praise Campion for their endeavour and enterprise in recording the orchestral works of the Latvian composer Janis Ivanovs. Amongst much else Ivanovs wrote 21 symphonies and a number of  concertos. If you have not heard his melodically inventive and 'fresh as a daisy' Violin Concerto do yourself a major favour and buy Cameo 2004 now. His music (especially during the period 1930s through to early 1950s) is resolutely tonal. It breathes good tunes.

There have already been two Marco Polo CDs of the early symphonies but No 4 was not amongst these and in any event, though the performances were c../graphics/reditable and the recording quality fine, there was room for improvement in the zest given to the music.

The disc proclaims itself as Volume 3. Presumably the violin concerto disc is volume 1. Volume 2 will almost certainly include the first symphony (the score for which was reportedly lost) alongside the other early symphonies.

Ivanovs Rainbow (Symphonic Poem) in D Major dates from 1939. It is a grandiloquent miniature sketch of wispy impressionism: harp figures, woodwind solos and a restrained enchantment. Its style is an amalgam of the French school leaning toweards Ravel and the Russian romantics: early Stravinsky, Rimsky (Sadko), Kachaturyan and perhaps Glazunov in his lighter textu../graphics/red style. It reminded me also of Bax's Spring Fire. At 5:40 a gloriously wallowy melody arches higher and higher. The solo violin at 8:00 is touchingly done. Ultimately the piece lacks shapeliness and at least one of the climaxes sounds contrived rather than convincing. That said there is much to enjoy here and little to demean. A rather lovely little essay. The recording dates from 1975 and is afflicted with some distant hiss.

The Fourth symphony dates from two years later and the war years. Dubbed Atlantis by the composer it was first conceived as a scenic multi-media work with dance, pantomime, theatre and special lighting.

It opens Sphinx-like - gazing sombrely into the chasm. The movement is entitled Ira Dei Legenda (The Message of Plato). The music is rather like the darker episodes in Tchaikovsky's Manf../graphics/red Symphony with dashes of Scriabin and early Miaskovsky (symphonies 1-3). At 3:48 a tune shambles in and along like something from Shostakovich. This soon boils towards a restrained climax which is held in reserve. There is a forbidding obsidian edge to the proceedings (especially from 10:12 to the end) which many will find utterly compelling. A saxophone puts in a surprising appearance at 10:11 and also ushers the movement to a close. Its swipes at slivers of the movement's tune are soon taken up by other instruments. There is even a tolling bell.

The second movement (Poseidon - Papylon - capital of Atlantis) opens with material from the first movement in impressionistic mood underlined by a female chorus. Their contribution is slightly Delian even recalling Warlock in Corpus Christi. The cor anglais solo at 5:00 sounds distinctly like Vaughan Williams but the strongest influence is Miaskovsky. I am sure that during Ivanovs' conducting years (1933-1944) he must have directed Miaskovsky's symphonies. At 8:00 we hear a characteristically defiant trumpet signature which could easily have come from Miaskovsky.

The third movement (Aedes Sacra - religious ceremonies) is the shortest of the three. It is vigorous and opens with a strident and distinctively rough incantatory trumpet call - the same heard in the previous movement. This is repeated by horns and trombones. Tempestuous clarinet and flute solos drive things along. A desolate serenade with a harp descending figure (4:40) repeated under woodwind solos is one of the highlights of the piece continued by a romantically ripe solo trumpet. A great horn section chant also stands high in this movement (8:54).

The final movement has as a superscription: "On a dreadful day, On a dreadful night, The Island of Atlantis disappea../graphics/red, drowned in the sea." (Plato) The great country and its city are gone. The depths of the ocean fall asleep and "... only the wind wails over a desert of waves for thousands of years." Its darkness seems occasionally to come from Bax a composer whose music Ivanovs would not have known. The last movement overall has a chilling and forward thrusting power with a sense of victory borne high on stormclouds.

The Russian-toned French horns sound exactly the bon mot for this music. The Riga Orchestra (Latvian NSO) has this music under its fingertips and in its sinews. As for the conductor Vassily Sinaisky (whose Russian Season recording of the Sibelius tone poems is very much under-valued) is committed to Ivanovs in the most practical way and has directed his music for many years. Perhaps broadcasting organisations and orchestral managements will surprise and delight us by allowing him to conduct some Ivanovs in the future. Neeme Jarvi 'made' Tubin's reputation an international one. I am sure that Sinaisky could do the same for Ivanovs. My only criticism would be that I suspect that the symphony would gain from a little more urgency. I am not familiar with the score and although there has been a previous Melodiya LP recording there is nothing you could call an international performing tradition.

Ivanovs is another example of a fine composer of Baltic stock whose music just has not travelled. It used to be said the Vaughan Williams' music did not travel. It has now defied that adventitiously imposed limit. If we are prepa../graphics/red for adventure (and reward) we will be open to Ivanovs' strangely haunted music. We will soon happily count works such as these two orchestral essays as minor treasures of the repertoire. I urge you to try this disc which I recommend. I strongly recommend the Violin Concerto which has everything and like Sleeping Beauty lies unrecognised.


Rob Barnett

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