LMIC radio

Ivanovs. Karlsons. 1945


Latvian National Symphony Orchestra
Andris Poga - conductor





Release date



Jānis Ivanovs

Symphony No. 5

Juris Karlsons

Music for Symphony Orchestra "1945"


LMIC 062

Ivanovs’ Symphony No. 5 is like a powerful oil painting. It brings to mind the lushness of the earth as painted by Ģederts Eliass, the whirlpools of Jānis Pauļuks, the interaction between colours in Valdis Bušs’ artwork. Several features of the composition lead one to believe that this is an example of abstractionism: the fragmentation of powerful thoughts, the constant changes in affects, the unique construction of forms that is strengthened by the dotted fifth–fourth motif in the first and fourth parts and the C as the symphony’s alpha and omega. Likewise, the familiar characters that the composer’s boundless fantasy and stormy temperament turn into symbolic figures.

“I feel an internal need to paint the sun green,” said painter Valdis Bušs (1924–2014). His paintings are extraordinarily expressive and colourful, and much in them is “not the right colour”. Likewise, little in Ivanovs’ symphonies is correct and predictable. But those thick, vivid brushstrokes, the green sun, the red water and the dark violet earth are so enthralling that the listener becomes a participant in a spirited conversation. Rhetoric is the key word to Ivanovs’ music. One must listen.

The plenary of the Latvian SSR Composers’ Union in the spring of 1985 was dedicated to the 40th anniversary of victory in the Second World War. Although elsewhere in the world May 8 is the accepted date for the commemoration of the end of that war in Europe, the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc celebrated May 9 as the last day of the Great Patriotic War.

The plenary’s concert of symphonic music took place in the Great Guild in Riga on April 14, 1985. The programme included Ivanovs’ Symphony No. 5 and the premiere of Juris Karlsons’ 1945 for symphonic orchestra performed by the LNSO under the direction of Vassily Sinaisky.

In the programme notes, Jānis Torgāns wrote that Karlsons had met people in Leningrad who had “truly experienced the reality of war”, and their memories provided him with the impulse to write the opus. 1945 can be interpreted both as a year and as a symbol of that year worked into the first motif of the work – namely, 1945 begins with the first, ninth, fourth and fifth steps of an imagined sequence based on C (C, D♭, F, G♭). In the second motif, the ascending ninth C–D♭ is inverted into a descending major seventh C–D♭ in the brass instruments.


The Artsdesk ,29.09.2018

"Ivanovs 5 is indeed a terrific large-scale piece.” "An exemplary release: nicely packaged, well annotated and impeccably performed."



The pairing of the composers Jānis Ivanovs and Juris Karlsons on this latest release from the Latvian based record label Skani is apposite. As a symphonist, Ivanovs is the most distinguished and prolific to have hailed from that country in the second half of the 20th century. Karlsons was a pupil in the older man’s composition class, and furthermore completed and orchestrated his Symphony No. 21, which was left incomplete at his death.
Ivanovs’ Symphony No. 5 was composed at the end of the war, and premiered in Moscow on May 10, 1946. Within a week, a further performance took place, this time in Riga. It initially met with positive acclaim, but later suffered criticism for being formalistic, thus not conforming to the Soviet ideal of social realism. The composer, who described the work as failing “ to portray the bright, life-affirming feelings of the Soviet person”, later vowed to counter this opprobrium in its successor, the Symphony No. 6. When asked what the theme of his Fifth Symphony was, Ivanovs remained steadfastly tight-lipped.
The Symphony was composed against the backdrop of the turmoil that beset Latvia at the time. The country’s hard-won independence, gained in 1918, was interrupted at the start of World War II when it was forcibly incorporated into the Soviet Union. In 1941 the Nazis invaded and occupied it prior to a Soviet reoccupation in 1944. The work is in four movements. The outer movements seem to echo the tragedy of war. Combative, powerfully etched and epic are adjectives I would ascribe to the opening movement. The finale likewise speaks with dramatic force. The slow movement is elegiac and brooding. Ivanovs lets more light into the Allegro third movement. Latvian folk music invests the music with a dance-like character, but the melancholic slow waltz which ends the movement has a haunting quality.
The Latvian SSR Composer’s Union in 1985 focussed their attentions on the 40th anniversary of victory in the Second World War. A celebratory concert was given on 14 April that year in which Ivanov's Fifth was paired with Karlson’s Music for Symphony Orchestra1945’. The memories and recollections of war, of the people of Leningrad that the composer met, formed the inspiration for this eleven minute score. Portent, dread, anguish and pain, reinforced by persistent ostinatos, sit shoulder to shoulder with more lyrical sections. At one point a waltz, featuring an accordion, recalls Soviet-era war films. Rhythmic tensions and dazzling orchestration add power and potency to this stirring music.
What we have are two commanding scores, each of which certainly packs a punch. Both are colourfully orchestrated, and the recording reveals a wealth of instrumental detail. I can’t fault in any way the Latvian National Symphony orchestra’s confident playing under Andris Poga’s inspirational direction.

Stephen Greenbank