> Markevich - Galais [RB]: Classical Reviews- March 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Igor MARKEVICH (1912-1983)
Variations, Fugue et Envoi sur une thème de Haendel (1941) [19.56]
Stefan Le Poète - Impressions d'enfance (1939) [17.08]
Bernard GALAIS

Méditation sur la mort d'un peintre - en hommage à Jacques Courtens [6.12]
Kazuoki Fujii (piano)
Philippe Depetris (flute)
Bernard Galais (harpe)
rec 1979?
PAVANE ADW 7217 [43.24]


Experience Classicsonline

Fujii's world premiere recordings were in the vanguard of the revival of Markevich creator rather than Markevich interpreter. The revival was sparked by a 1978 concert in Brussels at which the orchestral works Vol d'Icare and Paradis Perdu were performed for the first time in the modern era - if we can still speak of 1978 as the 'modern era'.

When the LP from which the Markevich tracks derive was first issued in the very early 1980s it caused a minor splash. Nothing or practically nothing had been heard of Markevich's music for decades. Even as a conductor he was in eclipse though his Philips Tchaikovsky cycle was always well worth catching - a little less hyper than Mravinsky but still at scalding temperature. Since then we have had Christopher Lyndon-Gee's superb Arnhem Phil cycle of the Markevich works from Marco Polo.

Markevich, Kiev-born, left Russia in 1914 and later became a French citizen. He abandoned composition circa 1943. The Handel Variations were among his later works (1941) predated, by four years, by the Stefan Impressions.

Markevich buffets and coaxes Handel's malleable and placidly smiling Harmonious Blacksmith theme. He does so with some small dissonance. Listen out for the rapid brusque disruptions at 5.58 and, at 9.40, the major hammer clashes. This is an always concise and tighty disciplined work that makes an immediate and favourable impression. Why not rest the Brahms work and substitute the Markevich?

The 'Stefan' of the Impressions was the son of a Belgian friend. These seven pieces play and muse at the dissonant margin of childhood dreams or nightmares. Notable moments include a ruthless chase [2.17] and at 14.12 a child's song - extruded but still preserving its charm. The Impressions are much more prone to rhapsodic adventure than the disciplined Variations.

I regret the decision to allocate a single track to each of the Markevich works. There ought surely to have been one track for each variation in the Handel Variations and another for each of the seven Stefan Impressions.

Markevich chose Kazuoki Fujii to record these works. What has happened to him since?

Bernard Galais's presence in the recording of his Méditation assures us of authenticity in this homage to the painter Jacques Courtens. Courtens' fantasy portrait of Markevich adorns the booklet cover. Galais was principal harp of the Opéra de Paris (1947-80). Latterly he devoted himself to composition and orchestrating various romantic concertos; the latter published by Didier Budin. The anthology of 18th to 20th century harp music was issued by Decca-Vega. His Homage is light on the palate, delicately Ravelian and with no hint of the dissonance which was part and parcel of Markevich's language.

Short playing time offset by intrinsic musical interest.

Rob Barnett


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