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
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
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
Short playing time offset by intrinsic musical