IPPOLITOV-IVANOV: Symphony No. 1 in e minor Turkish Fragments; Turkish March – Singapore Sym. Orch./ Choo Hoey – Naxos

IPPOLITOV-IVANOV: Symphony No. 1 in e minor, Op. 46; Turkish Fragments, Op. 62; Turkish March, Op. 55 – Singapore Sym. Orch./ Choo Hoey – Naxos 8.573508, 55:50 ****:

Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov (1859-1935) has remained a “singular success” on the basis of his colorful Caucasian Sketches, Op. 10, so well inscribed by the likes of Abravanel, Rodzinski, and Mitropoulos. Conductor Choo Hoey assumed some degree of exploration by leading his Singapore Symphony in these relatively rare scores from 1908 (Symphony) and 1930 (Sketches) and 1932 (March) for the Marco Polo label in 1984.  While a bit of ragged playing intrudes periodically, the music reveals a natural affection for exotic Eastern doxology and Russian landscape, particularly in the eclectic Symphony. Certainly, the Tchaikovsky influence – likely from the “Little Russian” Symphony – asserts itself in the AdagioAllegro, with color elements from the clarinet and outbursts that bear a “German” authoritative stamp. The C Major Scherzo, on the other hand, rings more of Borodin and Balakirev, dashing off a moto perpetuo of some bravura.  The scoring of clarinets and bassoons for the Elegia: Larghetto sounds a cross between Rimsky-Korsakov and Mussorgsky, with a genuine capacity for melodic contour and martial, liturgical undertones. The Finale opens with brisk, assertive figures, a folk tune treated well in the manner Glinka established for frothy orchestration, enhanced by the scoring perfected by Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, and Taneyev. At times, the music resembles a gifted wind serenade augmented by brilliant writing for the strings.  The horns and assorted brass take up the latter development of the movement, clearly intoning aspects of Eastern chorale in vibrant colors, a true disciple of Borodin’s happier spirits.

Ippolitov-Ivanov became increasingly enamored of the music of Uzbek, Kazakh and Turkish origins, assembling his four Fragments in 1930: Caravan, At Rest, Night, and Festival. The large orchestral forces mean to expand the sense of pageantry, in a manner that resembles the appearance of the Arabian princess (June Duprez) in Michael Powell’s The Thief of Bagdad. The Allegretto grazioso entitled “At Rest” has a lovely waltz sway, intruded upon by a buoyant scherzetto colored by percussion in tambourine and cymbals, Allegro vivo.  The scoring reminds us of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Tsar Saltan. The English horn announces the hookahs and swirling dancing girls of Night, an erotic gesture realized without percussive effects. The Festival movement invites a xylophone into the mix with a puffy bassoon, followed by a moody Larghetto led by an oboe. Once more the tempo picks up in colors that anticipate Khachaturian or perky Kabalevsky.

The gaudy Turkish March projects a ceremonial pomp that might work in a fantasy movie starring Cornel Wilde.  The Rimsky-Korsakov influence remains unmistakable, but that is no detriment to the color effect, sweetly charming in its more luxuriant melodic turns.

—Gary Lemco

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