Dārziņš and Ivanovs: similarities and differences.
Volfgangs Dārziņš was born in Riga on September 25, 1906. His father was Emīls Dārziņš, one of the best-loved Latvian composers and one of the most significant music critics of his day. Volfgangs was named in honour of Mozart, whose music the young-at-heart Emīls loved and the mature-minded Emīls considered the source of musical clarity.
Jānis Ivanovs was born in Babri, a village in Latgale, on October 9, 1906. His father was Andrejs Ivanovs, a telegraph lineman who had learned electrical work while serving in the Tsar’s army. Jānis was half Latvian and half Russian.
Volfgangs Dārziņš grew up in Riga. When he was four years old, his father died in a railway accident. Jānis Ivanovs grew up in his native village and also in Skrīveri, where his father worked. Both places had very beautiful landscapes, and in Latgale the boy was also exposed to a living tradition of folk music.
During the First World War, Dārziņš and his mother, who was a teacher at the Riga Maldonis Gymnasium, lived in Nizhnynovgorod and Saratov. Ivanovs and his parents, for their part, spent the war years in Smolensk and Vitebsk. The Dārziņš family returned to Latvia in 1919; the Ivanovs family returned in 1920.
After the war, in 1924, Dārziņš and Ivanovs both enrolled in the newly established Latvian Conservatory. Ivanovs began studying in a special piano class led by Nikolajs Dauge but then decided to concentrate instead on composition and orchestral conducting. Dārziņš began studies in composition and additionally studied piano performance.
Both young men graduated from the composition class of Jāzeps Vītols, the founder of Latvian professional music education and a former professor at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Other composition classes did not yet exist in Latvia, and both budding composers gained a classical, conservative, professionally flawless education based on the German-Russian tradition; it did not, however, always encourage explorations of new horizons. But some young composers, including Dārziņš and Ivanovs, did break out of comfortable and well-understood frame of National Romanticism.
The effervescent, conspicuous and energetic Dārziņš became known for his organic renderings of Latvian traditional music in the realm of professional music, and by the age of 40 he had become something of a Latvian Bartók, demonstrating a deft style with intricate metro-rhythmic phrasing.
The reserved, introverted and guarded Ivanovs journeyed through the captivating domains of Impressionism, and before reaching the age of 40 had already become a recognised composer of monumental symphonic music with a style resembling the thick brushstrokes of a painter specialising in oils.
Dārziņš’ Piano Concerto No. 2, featured on this album, marks the end of the composer’s youth, while Ivanovs’ Symphony No. 20 is considered the culmination of the composer’s oeuvre.
At the time when Dārziņš was composing his Piano Concerto No. 2, Ivanovs was writing his Symphony No. 4 (Atlantis), which was heavily influenced by the global situation at the onset of the Second World War. Dārziņš, who was also a talented and prolific music critic, felt Ivanovs’ work contained too much death. His own Concerto was as light and lively as little else in Latvian music.