The Caucasian Sketches of Ippolitov-Ivanov refer to the region of the Caucasus Mountains region of Eurasia, specifically the country that is called Georgia. It is one of the most culturally diverse places in the world as a result of many factors. Bordering the Black Sea, the area was a major trade route. It was first influenced by the Roman Empire, and after its demise was much influenced by the Eastern Roman Empire. Despite a close relationship with Russia, the 18th century saw invasions from Persia and Turkey and their subsequent additions to the culture. The entire Causcasus region shares in Georgia's diversity and as such the people of the region and Georgia don't fit into any of the major ethnic categories of Europe or Asia. Of course this diversity spills over into the arts and in the musical world leads to music that can sound European one moment, exotic and oriental the next.
Ippolitov-Ivanov was influenced greatly by the diversity he witnessed at Tbilisi during his years there. He even went back in later years to help reorganize the Conservatory there. He wrote two sets of Caucasian Sketches, the first one in 1894. He uses folk tunes of the region with brilliant use of the orchestra. The Suite consists of 4 separate 'sketches':
1. In A Mountain Pass - A musical painting of the mountains in the region.
2. In A Village - The English horn is used to play an exotic tune in imitation of the native zurna of the region.
3. In a Mosque - Although Georgia is predominantly Orthodox now, it is one of the few places in the world where an Islamic Mosque and a Christian Church stand side by side in Tbilisi.
4. Procession Of The Sardar - Sardar is a Persian word that means leader.
Ippolitov-Ivanov wrote music in many genres, but most of his output was for voice, chorus or orchestra. He carried on the tradition of orchestration that he learned from Rimsky-Korsakov as his music for orchestra is brilliantly and imaginatively orchestrated. His music is mostly forgotten, with only the 'Procession of The Sardar' from this suite played occasionally.