Ippolitov-Ivanov: Mtzyri, Symphony no 1 / Brain, Bamberg SO

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A vibrant selection of pictorial-impressionist exotica.

This disc made little impression when first issued and the undertow caused by the fall of Conifer delivered the coup de grace. It certainly deserves better if you have a taste for Russian nationalism.

Mtzyri is a nice piece of Russo-Oriental pictorial-impressionist exotica. Its elements include a Sheherazade-sinuous song for solo violin and the minaret and the muezzin are never far away. Think in terms of a more lucidly orchestrated brother of Balakirev's Tamara and the tragic-tormented aspects of Tchaikovsky’s Manfred. It’s all done with real conviction and soprano Barainsky (13:20) holds an impressive high note with throbbing invincibility.

The Symphony is lively enough and wends its way between Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov - nearer to Tchaikovsky. The quiet shuddering footfall in the third movement recalls the Capriccio Italien.

The booklet notes - now standard in ArkivMusic licensed discs - are by Toccata's Martin Anderson and are therefore a rewarding read in their own right. They are in English, French and German. They paint in the details of the life and music with a fine brush.

A minor gripe is that despite there being plenty of space we have only one attractive segment of the Caucasian Sketches - the composer's only claim to popularity. There was room for the whole suite.

This is a handsome offering and something to tantalise until we can hear his other works. There are six operas including The Last Barricade (1933-34) which has as its subject the Paris Commune. We would do well in our safety and superiority not to hold against him that, as the times dictated, ‘patriotic’ pieces were required and were delivered: Song of Stalin, Hymn to Work, Voroshilov March, The Year 1917. Further afield there is a Catalan Suite and a four movement work, Karelia - possibly intended as his Second Symphony. Other folk-influenced material include An Evening in Georgia, Musical Pictures of Uzbekistan, On the Steppes of Turkmenistan and Turkish Fragments.

If you would like to delve beyond this disc try Naxos 8.553405 (Caucasian Sketches – suites 1 and 2), Marco Polo 8.223629 (Yar-Khmel, Ossian Tableaux, Jubilee March and Episode from life of Schubert etc) and Marco Polo 8.220217 (Symphony 1 and Turkish Fragments).

Gary Brain is a sensitive and confident advocate for this largely unknown music. It is to his credit that he continues to champion the wilder periphery. His discography includes the Truscott Symphony (Marco Polo) and a cycle of orchestral discs presenting music by Polish-Swiss composer, Czeslaw Marek (Koch International).

-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: CON51317

  • UPC: 756055131724

  • Label: Conifer

  • Composer: Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov

  • Conductor: Gary Brain

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Bamberg Symphony Orchestra

  • Performer: Claudia Barainsky