He was born in 1859 at Gatchina,
Petersburg, where his father was a mechanic employed at the palace.
His birth name was Mikhail Mikhailovich Ivanov; later he added Ippolitov,
his mother's maiden name, to distinguish himself from a music critic with
a similar surname. He studied music at home and was a choirboy at the
cathedral of St.
Isaac, where he also had musical instruction, before entering the St.
Petersburg Conservatory in 1875. In 1882 he completed his studies as a
composition pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov,
whose influence was to remain strong.