Latvian National Symphony Orchestra
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.