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Igor MARKEVITCH (1912-1983)
Complete Orchestral Music Vol. 7
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

The Musical Offering (Potsdam and Leipzig 1747) realized 1949-50 for three orchestral groups and solo quartet by Igor Markevitch
Rémy Baudet (violin), Hans van Loenen (wooden transverse flute), Jeroen Reuling (cello), Dirk Luijmes (harpsichord)
Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra/Christopher Lyndon-Gee
Recorded Musis Sacrum, Arnhem, April 1997
MARCO POLO 8.225120 [51.57]


Markevitch was not the first, and will not be the last, to attempt a realisation for performance of the Musical Offering. His solution involves reordering the canons, interpolating one within the Sonata and fusing the nine remaining canons in sequence, here called Theme with Variations with one doubled. The effect is one of development and movement and what one may perhaps call symphonic arch, with all the sense of cumulative tension that that implies. Markevitch has constructed a four-movement work; Ricercare a 3 voci, The Theme with Variations, the Sonata and the concluding Fugue a 6 – Markevitch’s own nomenclature though more properly known as the Ricercare a 6. As conductor Christopher Lyndon-Gee points out in his authoritative notes Markevitch also employs three orchestral groupings and plots them stereophonically on stage - the Disposition des Instruments, his orchestral plan, is printed at the end of the booklet. Looking at it from the audience’s visual perspective one can see that in the middle is the Sonata group – harpsichord, solo strings, oboe and the others – and to the left and right of the conductor are Orchestras 1 and 2, comprised entirely of strings. Orchestra 3 includes winds and continuo, amongst others.

Markevitch was inspired to this realisation by his teacher Nadia Boulanger – and she completed the keyboard continuo part. It was first performed in 1950 and Markevitch went on to record it six years later, even going so far as to programme it in his New York debut. His achievement is one of architectural logic and cohesion fused with aural clarity. Textures are refined, the orchestral layout becoming a source of fruitful conjunctions and interplay. It’s noticeable how the oboe’s entry in the Quaerendo invenietis (which Lyndon-Gee rightly calls "shocking") achieves this impact through just these means. The schema is assured and logical and the resolution is noble in its cumulative power and there is perhaps one more element in its success. Bach’s may or may not have ever been intended as a performable work in toto but in his realisation Markevitch gives formal lucidity to the work and plays on the contrast between the intimacy of the continuo and Sonata group and the grandeur of the full ensemble that surrounds it – both physically and metaphorically. To this end the notes are exemplary in examining Markevitch’s motives and musical means of expression and the orchestra does indeed rise to noble heights in their elucidation of the text.

Jonathan Woolf


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