Sunday 23 August 2015

The Singapore Symphony Orchestra under their founding Music Director, Choo Hoey provide well-shaped performances of Ippolitov-Ivanov’s Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Turkish Fragments and Turkish March, re-released by Naxos

For those who know of the Russian composer Mikhail Mikhailovich Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935) it may still only be for his Caucasian Sketches. Nevertheless, he wrote operas, choral and vocal music, chamber works, film music and many other orchestral works including two symphonies. Ippolitov-Ivanov studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and later taught at the Moscow Conservatory, becoming its Director in 1905. His music is influenced by his interest in oriental music and, in particular, ethnic regions of the Soviet Union.

It is Ippolitov-Ivanov’s first symphony with Choo Hoey  conducting the Singapore Symphony Orchestra that has been re-released by Naxos , coupled with his Turkish Fragments and Turkish March.

A typically Russian opening Adagio to the Symphony No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 46, a little reminiscent of Rimsky-Korsakov, leads to a buoyant, flowing Allegro risoluto, an attractive melody increases in dynamics before a gentler passage for clarinet and strings. A trombone joins supported by a rather four square string accompaniment that does develop through some finer passages with a returning rising theme that is most attractive. The music builds to a rousing climax before relaxing back to passages where the invention occasionally flags before leading to a quiet coda, beautifully conceived.

The second movement is a really lively Scherzo: Allegro that lightly and rhythmically rushes ahead. There is a slower trio section with a rather fine eloquent theme with a beautifully woven orchestration, rising up emotionally to a lovely peak before quietening and leading to the return of the Allegro that brings an infectious rhythmic version of the theme. Woodwind bring about the lovely coda. This is a really fine movement.

The Elegia: Larghetto opens with a slow melody underlined by an insistent little rhythmic string motif. The music develops a rather serious mood weaving a rising and falling theme before a second subject, for clarinet and bassoon over pizzicato strings, appears. There is a staccato brass motif before the orchestra arrives, leading to a gentle coda.

The Finale: Allegro moderato leaps into life with a buoyant theme that alternates between woodwind and strings before percussion join to drive the music along. Soon a sweeping melody arrives that flows ahead with some lovely moments for individual brass and woodwind. The music slows for a restatement of the theme but soon increases in tempo, Ippolitov-Ivanov working up a fine swirling and dramatic coda.

Marked less by Oriental influences than Russian orthodox music, this is a symphony that, overall, brings some very attractive moments.

Turkish Fragments, Op. 62 is in four sections and opens with Caravan, a light and rhythmic piece with an Eastern flavour that jogs along, slowly increasing in dynamics. Centrally there is a more flowing version of the theme before the opening tempo returns with some lovely woodwind arabesques around the orchestra.

At Rest brings a gentle, slow theme that opens out into a slow rhythmic melody pointed up by brass. Soon a faster galloping theme with a definite Eastern influence is introduced, rising with a rich brass contribution and growing faster before returning to the original gentle flowing theme with a tambourine adding colour.

A cor anglais brings Night, together with a repeated orchestral accompanying motif. This is a prime example of how Ippolitov-Ivanov could create such exquisite little tone pictures conjuring up an Eastern night. A lovely little piece.

Festival rushes ahead with a xylophone pointing up the fast moving theme. Soon there is a slower melody, somewhat melancholy but the fast theme returns rushing to the coda.

Brass sound out against staccato orchestral phrases to introduce Ippolitov-Ivanov’s Turkish March, Op.55. Soon a slower, quieter march theme arrives that grows into a more dynamic theme. There is a trio section that brings a more flowing march before rising to a dynamic and decisive coda.

The Singapore Symphony Orchestra under their founding Music Director, Choo Hoey provide well-shaped performances. The recording, made in Singapore’s Victoria Memorial Hall in 1984, is brightly lit and detailed. Keith Anderson provides his usual informative booklet notes.

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