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Igor MARKEVITCH  (1912-1983)
Piano Concerto (1928) [15.56]
Cantate (1929) [24.10]
Icare (1932 rev. 1943) [25.53]
Martijn van den Hoek (piano)
Nienke Oostenrijk (sop)
Men's Voices of Nederlands Concertkoor (Amsterdam)/Rob Vermeulen
Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra/Christopher Lyndon-Gee
rec. Musis Sacrum, Arnhem, 14-17 Apr 1998, 12-13 Apr 1999. DDD
MARCO POLO 8.225076 [65.40]

I wrote about the first three volumes in this Markevitch series back in 1999 and then, to my shame, rather lost sight of it. I now return at volume 6 - I will certainly request volumes 4 and 5 and review those as well when I can.

Markevitch, rightly renowned as a conductor whose inspirational dramatic inclination raged through the romantic repertoire was also a composer. Indeed he was a composer long before he was a conductor. The concerto and cantata on this disc are works of his teens when his creativity was moulded to the Stravinskian curve. The Concerto is tightly and insistently rhythmic in the indefatigable outer movement - very neo-classical. The central movement is a powerful andante in which world-weary uncertainty comes up against power-lofted tragedy which takes something from the portents and tension of The Rite of Spring. The Cantate is in four movements and sets a text by Cocteau. The massed choral work is provided by a male voice choir with Nienke Oostenrijk. The singing conspires with the orchestra in providing the constantly and quickly moving forward impetus. The style reminds me of early into mid-period Tippett, not dissonant, rippling with testosterone, full of gravelly buoyant speed - a touch of Orff perhaps or the Stravinsky Symphony of Psalms. The piece ends in the chaste glow of the soprano's singing.

Fifteen years on and this Icare in seven movements is a quite different work. It also differs from the dour original version of 1932 - recorded on Marco Polo 8.223666. Here Markevitch is determinedly modernistic with a plethora of percussion punctuation - an incessant counterpoint to the free-flowing melodic lines that rise in languid dawns. The final section Mort d'Icare fades magically into a niente then rises hesitantly grumbling before grasping one of those mellow glowing diminuendi. No wonder Bernstein rated this music so highly.

The words are sung in French in which language they are printed in the booklet alongside an idiomatic English translation by conductor, notewriter and guiding intelligence behind the whole project, Christopher Lyndon-Gee. I sense a labour of love here and his artistic choices seem to me to be unerring.

Markevitch as a composer was no late romantic. His muse tends to neo-classicism, Stravinsky, Roussel (though less clamant) and Mossolov.

Rob Barnett


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