Igor MARKEVITCH (1912 – 1983)

Complete Orchestral Works - Volume 3
Cantique d’Amour (1936) [10:00]
L’envol d’Icare (1933) [26:23]
Concerto Grosso (1930) [18:27]
Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra/Christopher Lyndon–Gee
rec. 7 December 1995 (Cantique), 5-6 December 1995 (d’Icare) and 10-11 June 1996 (Concerto Grosso). DDD
Re–issue of Marco Polo 8.223666
NAXOS 8.572153 [54:51]
Remembered as a conductor of highly specialised tastes, Igor Markevitch started his musical career as pianist and composer. He was “discovered” by Diaghilev who commissioned, in 1929, a Piano Concerto, which Markevitch performed at Covent Garden. By the age of 20 he as regarded as a major figure in the world of contemporary composition, but in 1933 he conducted his Ballet Suite, Rebus with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. This occasioned a change in the direction of his life. He ceased composing in 1942, after suffering a serious illness and making the decision to become a conductor. He took lessons from Pierre Monteux and the rest, as they say, is history. As a composer he was known as “The Second Igor”, the first being Stravinsky, and it is said that after hearing a performance of L'Envol d'Icare – in the 1933 arrangement for two pianos and three percussionists of his 1932 ballet Icare – Bartók took the inspiration to write his Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. Indeed, Bartók wrote to Markevitch, stating, "You are the most striking personality in contemporary music, and I am happy to thank you for the influence you have had on me." His son, Oleg Caetani, with his second wife Donna Topazia Caetani, is currently chief conductor and artistic director of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.
It is only in the past fifteen or twenty years that Markevitch’s work as a composer has started being re-evaluated. One can see why he was so highly prized at the time he was composing. L’envol d’Icare, with its imaginative orchestral writing, very colourful palette of sound and wealth of memorable themes is a work one wants to hear again and again. This is an endlessly fascinating piece. Lyndon–Gee, who has done more than anyone to put Markevitch’s music back into circulation, has recorded seven CDs of Markevitch’s orchestral music. These are performances which are very good indeed. The present performance is very good, especially as the musicians cannot have known the music before the recording took place. If you really want to hear this music in an electrifying reading you must investigate the 1958 recording of Icare (the revised version) by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic (as part of a 10 disk set of live performances on the Philharmonic’s own label – available by mail order from the New York Philharmonic’s website). This latter was given in the presence of the composer. The Bernstein performance is exactly what this music requires.
The other two works on the disk are of lesser value and importance, but are no less enjoyable. Cantique d’Amour is a richly-layered piece, full of eastern promise and as erotic as you could wish. The Concerto Grosso is obviously neo-classical fun, and it shows much less of the composer than do the other two works.
Whether or not you have the Bernstein recording of Icare this disk is essential, as are the others in the series, for allowing us to get to know a major composer of the early part of the last century. Very good, clear, recording and excellent notes.

Bob Briggs