In the 1960s, Jānis Ivanovs composed five of his most experimental and expressionistic symphonies: Nos. 9 to 13. In them, he boldly employed polytonalities, polyharmonies and also the twelve-tone technique – everything that had been rehabilitated along with the thaw initiated at that time in social life and cultural processes. Already from a young age, Ivanovs had defended the composer’s right to innovation and development. He highlighted the melodic and contrapuntal lines in these symphonies with trumpets and the piano, newly introduced into the orchestra. And often he anxiously and even nervously subjected these lines to the dictates of rhythm. Ivanovs filled vast passages of his music with the tremolo of the snare drum, creating a backdrop similar to the rough canvas or coarse sandpaper that artists of the 1960s covered with thick brushstrokes using oversized brushes or putty knives. This was the era of the harsh style in Latvian art, poetry, music and culture, and Ivanovs, with his symphonies, fit well into this atmosphere; in fact, he was in its avanguard.
But in 1964, Ivanovs also created something else: a small vocalise titled Autumn Song, for a cappella mixed choir. It appeared in unpretentious four-part choral harmony, presenting a disarmingly warm melodicism and deeply respiring harmonic sequences containing parallel fifths, like a relic from an ancient shepherd’s song...
From where did this creative diversion, or perhaps undercurrent, appear in the oeuvre of Ivanovs, the composer of epic and dramatic symphonies and master of the harsh style?