Silvia Marcovici – Volume 1
CD 1
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Violin Concerto in D (1878) [34:10]
SWR Symphony Orchestra/Cristian Mandeal
rec. May 1996
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Violin Concerto in D major (1878) [39:38]
Südfunk Symphony Orchestra, Stuttgart/Garcia Navarro
rec. February 1988
CD 2
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Violin Concerto in D major Op 61 (1806) [45:59]
Hessicher Radio Orchestra, Frankfurt/Eliahu Inbal
rec. October 1979
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Violin Concerto No.3 in B minor, Op.61 (1880) [28:08]
Saarländischer Radio Orchestra/Saarbrücken/Marcello Viotti
rec. June 1993
Edouard LALO (1823-1892)
Symphonie Espagnole, Op. 21 (1874)
George Enescu Philharmonic Bucharest/Cristian Mandeal
rec. 1994
Max BRUCH (1838-1920)
Violin Concerto No.1 in G minor, Op.26 (1864-68)
George Enescu Philharmonic Bucharest/unknown conductor
rec. 1990
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Violin Concerto No.2 BE 117 (1937-38)
Budapest Radio Orchestra/Erich Bergel
rec. 1991
Silvia Marcovici (violin)
DVD: Video: 4:3 Colour; Audio: PCM Stereo; Length: c. 100 minutes
DOREMI DHR-7942-44 [73:54 + 74:15 + DVD]

Romanian violinist Silvia Marcovici was born in January 1952 and has carved a fine career as soloist, and also teacher. As well as concerto and sonata engagements she teaches at the Kunst Universität in Graz. I first came across her name in relation to her performance of the Glazunov Concerto with Stokowski, back in 1972. This in itself was the occasion for one of those possibly apocryphal (or not) Stokowski stories. The aged Maestro, then ninety, slipped a piece of paper across the table towards the twenty year old, mini-skirted Marcovici. It read; ‘?’. Marcovici’s reply, so they say, was; ‘!’.

In any case we have here two CDs and a DVD of live material. They represent pretty much core repertory. Regarding the CDs the Tchaikovsky – with Christian Mandeal - is taken at conventional tempi. Her playing is good, gauche-free, and highly convincing, warmly and communicatively lyric in the central movement. She keeps her vibrato lightened, but flexible and responsive, and doesn’t over-emote. Her Brahms Concerto (February 1998 with Garcia Navarro in Stuttgart) is once again taken at unexceptionable tempi (perfectly judged in other words). Refined but appealingly poetic she shines in particular in the slow movement which is richly hued. She manages to imbue the finale with requisite fire, and champions its bucolic-gypsy elements with considerable élan.

The second disc discloses a performance of the Beethoven with Inbal in Frankfurt in 1979. This opens strong, gruff and slow, and makes a few metrical points especially in repeated phrases. Things are never taken for granted, though things can be a touch emphatic. There is something of a rhetorical contrast between the stern orchestral patina and the soloist; maybe one of the nearest analogues I know to the G minor Piano Concerto. It’s fascinating to listen to her vibrato colour and speed throughout the concerto, as well as to her remarkable control of dynamic variance. Throughout though I find Inbal’s marshalling too gruff, it does mesh at points with Marcovici’s powerfully conceived conception.

In the Saint-Saëns B minor concerto the ethos is not especially Gallic but it is vital and exciting. Strongly vibrated and sometimes impulsive, it’s a reading too of considerable charm. Once again changes in colour and articulation ensure that things are kept quiveringly alive and in a reading such as this, where narrative tension is taut, her quick slides and subtle finger position changes are a tonic. The insouciant whistling incident is dispatched with bravado, confidence and agility. Throughout this is a strong, winning performance. I wonder how she plays the Dvorák?

After the aural riches comes the Audio-Visual. First is the Lalo Symphonie Espagnole, once again with Mandeal, this time directing the George Enescu Philharmonic, Bucharest. Glamorous in black she triumphs over the rather crude set-up. It spends a lot of time focusing in and out, and the sound is only so-so. One can’t see Marcovici’s face very well and there’s a lack of definition to the sound and vision. The orchestra is a dour, miserable looking bunch. She has the music on a stand, for those who worry about such things.

The Bruch has some problems. There are several angles to the filming, so it’s better in this respect than the Lalo, but there are one or two film slippages, including a chaotic one of the wind choir (ironically, later on I think I detect that she was distracted by the loudness of some of the wind chording). She wears a black sleeveless top to match her raven hair and a white skirt. She plays mostly with her eyes shut; look at the picture on the front of the box, as it derives from the concert. The orchestra is the same as before but the conductor is unknown; he looks like a young Bashmet. The microphones are better here, lighting too. However there is a biggish tape loss and we segue from toward the end of the second movement well into the finale. Facially she gives little away as a performer but those slight muscular twitches show her elevated commitment.

The Bartók Concerto is with the Budapest Radio Orchestra and Erich Bergel. The sound quality is considerably better than the Lalo but not as good as the Bruch. There are several cameras involved, mainly front-on. There’s much more eye contact here, as one would expect. Berger’s cues are strong and on the button. Marcovici plays with great control and eloquence. She’s technically hugely impressive, even though the recorded set-up is unsympathetic to her tone.

The good news is that this is the first volume in a proposed series devoted to Marcovici. This opening salvo is difficult to assess objectively. Parts of the visual element are clearly poor. I would treat them as ancillary documents that flesh out what one can hear in the two CDs. But those discs do reveal her splendid instrumental and tonal qualities and her strong, direct and impressive musicality.

Jonathan Woolf