Composers and Authors /

Ivanovs, Janis (1906 - 1983)

Biography   Works  

Jānis Ivanovs
Jānis Ivanovs
Foto 1

The author of 21 symphonies, several concerti and symphonic poems, Ivanovs has gone into history as the most noteworthy Latvian symphonic composer of the second half of the 20th century.

Jānis Ivanovs (1906, Preiļi – 1983, Riga) graduated from Georg Schnéevoigt’s conducting class in 1931 and Jāzeps Vītols’ composition class in 1933 at the Latvian Conservatory. From 1944 to his death in 1983, he taught composition and orchestration there (today the Latvian Academy of Music). In the 1930s, Ivanovs worked as a sound engineer, later (1944–1961) as the artistic director of Latvian Radio.

Already in the 1930s, Jānis Ivanovs had developed a highly individual style, rooted in a synthesis of late romanticism, folklore, and impressionism. With the music of Ivanovs, a new level of clear, constructive form and precision entered Latvian symphonic music, which excluded expressive approximation and passiveness. His works gained a new dimension of dramaticism and monumentalism in the decades following WWII under the influence of expressionism and neo-classicism. His 4th and 5th Symphonies were attacked for being musically formalistic and denounced during the infamous 1948 campaign of the Zhdanov aesthetic

When the intensity of ideological manipulation thawed somewhat after the death of Stalin, Jānis Ivanovs was gradually able to recapture the depth of psychological expression he had attained earlier, in his 7th (1953) and especially his 8th Symphony (1956). After his Piano Concerto (1959), beginning with his 9th Symphony and continuing up to his 21st Symphony (1983, completed and orchestrated by Juris Karlsons), Ivanovs’ symphonic music became decidedly more dramatic, monumental, even philosophic, although the dramatic elements therein are individualized in each work. The dramatic aspects of his symphonies are multi-layered. One is defined by the eternal artistic concept “the individual vs. mankind”. It is associated with a strong will, self-proclamation, and an energetic struggle, as well as the pain of loss and resignation. But alongside this psychological layer there is also a second dramatic element, which portrays conflicts of the external world. The disguising of these two dramatic spheres and the motion from one to the other is one of the most characteristic idiosyncrasies in the symphonic music of Jānis Ivanovs.

Ivanovs’ complete symphonic works are being released by the British recording company Campion.

Arnolds Klotiņš

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