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Igor Markevitch (conductor)
The Deutsche Grammophon Legacy
rec. 1953-1965
No texts
ELOQUENCE 4841659 [21 CDs: c. 23hrs]

The time is right to acquire the vast bulk of Igor Markevitch’s commercial legacy. Warner has released its 18 CD Erato ‘Icon’ box that contains his complete HMV LPs (label confusion is rife these days, isn’t it?). On its heels comes Australian Eloquence with two hefty boxes of its own, the Philips Legacy (26 CDs), to be reviewed soon, and the box under discussion, a 21 CD collection devoted to Markevitch’s DG recordings.

Given his reportorial versatility this particular box is of special interest – not, of course, that the others aren’t. But as his Cherubini was as good as his Mozart and his Mozart as astutely directed as his Beethoven and his command of somewhat overlooked French repertoire, such as Gounod’s Second Symphony, as secure as his Damnation of Faust, you can sense that the pleasures enshrined in this box are – to be simplistic – two-fold: frequently inspired interpretations across a variety of repertoire, both well-known and obscure.

I am going to give a very quick overview of the contents.

The set opens with his classic recording of Cherubini’s Requiem in D minor, recorded with the Czech Philharmonic and men’s chorus in the Rudolfinum in Prague in a fine sounding 1962 stereo recording. The distinctive allure of the famous Czech winds, in particular, is memorable throughout. There are no soloists in this work, of course, but this adds a concentrated focus on the orchestral-choral balance of the piece. Coupled with it on the opening disc is Mozart’s Mass in C major (the Coronation), with the Lamoureux orchestra in stereo in 1959, which can be fruitfully contrasted with the earlier mono recording made in Berlin in 1954, which is housed in CD 20. His preference as soprano soloist here was Maria Stader, who is the only singer common to both recordings, and who is equally excellent on both discs.

There are three Mozart symphonies in the second disc all in mono. Numbers 34 and 38 are with the Berlin Philharmonic, then still – just about, he died later in the year – Furtwängler’s orchestra. The Haffner was recorded three years later in Paris with the orchestra he directed for several years until it had had enough of him, the Lamoureux. No 34 sports a plushly affectionate slow movement and Markevitch interpolates the Minuet from K409, probably on the precedent of the suggestion in the third revision of the Köchel catalogue that it was intended for the work, for which there seems no tangible evidence. The Prague is warmly accomplished too but there’s a rather greater sense of sonic and interpretative personalisation in the Paris Haffner. Sonorities are tauter and brighter in Paris, the string sound less opulent and the brass tight and gleaming, all of which gives a sense of aeration of texture. His Lamoureux recordings were inevitably lithe and exciting.

There’s more Mozart in CD 3, an eloquent performance of the Bassoon Concerto by Maurice Allard, one of France’s leading wind soloists at the time. Haydn’s Sinfonia concertante follows with its quartet of first-class soloists that include the astringent but exciting violinist Georges Alès. This was a work much loved by Fritz Busch whose violin soloist Leo Hansen is a warmer player. Cimarosa’s Concerto for two flutes is a Berlin recording and the final piece in this disc is Schubert’s Third Symphony (Berlin Philharmonic, 1954) which I find, on occasion, unsuitably belligerent.

No such reservations apply to the famous sequence of Beethoven overtures housed in CD 4. This has always been an admired disc which was recorded with the Lamoureux in stereo in 1958. Together Markevitch and the orchestra generate magnificent – but unsaturated - sonority and dramatic intensity. Little telling rubati in Egmont, accelerandos in Fidelio and a sensationally fine Consecration of the House are just a few things to listen out for.

Thomas Frost produced the mono recording of the Eroica made in the Manhattan Center with the Symphony of the Air (Toscanini’s ex-NBC Symphony). Symphonically powerfully but not overwhelming or overbearing, the orchestra’s power and virtuosic finesse is clear and makes another point of contrast with the slightly later recording of the Pastoral with the Lamoureux. Their corporate virtuosity may be on a lower level but piquant colour and sonorities offer their own reward. In fact, another comparison can be made. At the same time as Markevitch was recording in Paris, Carl Schuricht was making his Parisian cycle with the Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire. Like Markevitch, Schuricht also took on recording engagements with more internationally esteemed orchestras – in Schuricht’s case, for example, Bruckner symphonies with the Vienna Philharmonic. Similar contrasts abound in their discographies. Markevitch’s Pastoral sports some avian winds and a rich variety of colours and the focused sound of the string choirs.

Discs 7 and 8 are given over to Brahms. The First Symphony was recorded in mono at the same sessions that gave us the Eroica. Its inexorable opening tread is sufficiently varied metrically to generate an accumulation of tension, the symphony being seen as an absorbing arc. Both Rodziński and Bruno Walter had made earlier studio recordings of the work in New York by this time and Markevitch’s authority is such that his reading is hardly less compelling. The Fourth Symphony is a Lamoureux recording in stereo though with a greater spread of sonics comes a slight blunting of impact. On this same disc is Harold in Italy with Heinz Kirchner and the Berlin Philharmonic with a cut in the finale

CD 9 expands the Berliozan focus via the Symphonie fantastique – and overtures by Cherubini (a really purposeful Anacréon) and Auber – where the atmosphere is just right and if the incendiary spirit of Munch is missing, the conception is no less concrete. CDs 10 and 11 are occupied by The Damnation of Faust, in 1959 stereo sound with Richard Verreau, Consuelo Rubio, Michel Roux and Pierre Mollet. This has been reviewed by John Quinn and whilst it’s ridiculous to distil a long review to one word I want to endorse the sense of ‘urgency’ that he located in this reading.

All-French repertoire can be found on disc 12. Gounod’s Second Symphony, propulsive and buoyantly played, has its complement of expressive nobility and whilst Bizet’s Jeux d’enfants is full of verve, Martinon is possibly even finer with his Paris Conservatoire recording. La Mer is vivid and colourful and Suzanne Cotelle is the harp soloist in the Danse sacrée et Danse profane. All these are with the Lamoureux but only the two Debussy pieces – La Mer thankfully included – are in stereo. Given the country of his birth – though he left at the age of two and always considered himself to be a French artist – Russian music was always a core component of his repertoire. Rimsky’s music features quite heavily in CD 13 with pride of place going to the Le Coq d’or suite arranged by Glazunov and Maximilian Steinberg and to the Russian Easter Festival overture. Sterner fare, and one of the symphonic high points of his recording career, comes in the following disc with the Pathétique symphony, here with the Berlin Philharmonic in 1953. His Tchaikovsky symphonic cycle, in stereo with the LSO, is contained in the Eloquence Philips box and the sixth there is probably better known for that reason.

Wagnerian preludes, overtures and chunks culled from diverse sources (Siegfried Idyll, Lohengrin, Tannhäuser, Die Walküre) are split between the Lamoureux and the Berlin Philharmonic on CD 15. The difference in string sonorities between the two orchestras is an obvious point of comparison but interpretatively Markevitch is equally successful. One of the most adventurous couplings is housed in the next disc where Milhaud’s Les Choéphores rubs musical shoulders with Honegger’s Fifth Symphony and Roussel’s Bacchus et Ariane, suite No 2. This disc was given a short review on this site over two decades ago when it appeared on DG’s ‘The Originals’ – a number of these recordings have appeared on this marque. The Milhaud is a fascinating piece for narrator and three singers and chorus but as there are no texts in this box, you may need to acquire one for this elsewhere, as indeed is the case for all the works with chorus or vocal soloists. Honegger’s Fifth is a powerful expressive performance though I tend to prefer Serge Baudo’s rather more incisive way with its central movement in his Czech Philharmonic recording from a few years later. Both the Milhaud and Honegger here are in excellent mono but the Roussel is in stereo, all with Lamoureux.

If you weren’t sated by his 1961 Symphonie fantastique you’ll find his earlier mono 1953 Berlin recording of it is on CD 17 and further reflect on the fact that his conceptions were not static. Each movement is more fluid and faster in Berlin. It’s coupled with Pictures at an Exhibition made at around the time that Rafael Kubelík, the Chicago Symphony and Mercury ushered in the world of Hi-Fi with their recording of it. Markevitch spent time in Sweden, where he was conductor of the Stockholm Philharmonic from 1952-55 and which is where he developed a taste for Berwald that was made concrete when he recorded the Second and Third symphonies with the Berlin Philharmonic in December 1955. He brings fresh vitality to these scores, notably the Sinfonie singulière, for which he clearly retained a fondness. When he returned to Stockholm to guest conduct in 1978 he programmed it and a live broadcast performance has survived (review). As I wrote of that performance ‘the trio section of the Scherzo is splendidly realised and the triumphant blare of the Presto finale is brought out with great energy and drive by a conductor-composer who always knew the works from the inside.’ By contrast I find his Schubert Fourth, though more sympathetic than his Third, still susceptible to a clipped, brusque quality.

Discs 19 and 20 focus on the earlier version of the Mozart Coronation Mass and his mono 1955 recording of Haydn’s The Creation. The cast list sees doubling; Irmgard Seefried is Gabriel and Eve, whilst Kim Borg takes Adam and Raphael. The tenor is Richard Holm and the forces those of the Berlin Philharmonic and the choir of St. Hedwigs Cathedral. Seefried is in radiant voice and the standout singer and Markevitch paces the work pretty much perfectly. The only thing that may strike one adversely in the slightly boxed-in sound of the chorus, at least as recorded.

The final disc is given over to Gounod’s Messe solennelle de sainte Cécile which was reviewed a few years ago on this site. The recording was made in Prague in June 1965, six years after the Cherubini sessions. The rest of this disc contains an interview, in English, between the conductor and Martin Bookspan conducted in 1957 which has been released before. It touches on some interesting topics – Toscanini, Monteux’s anxiety about The Rite of Spring, Szell, how Haydn’s The Creation was one of Markevitch’s own favourite recordings and the difficulties of finding time to compose.

These recordings, as previously noted – and I’ve only noted some of those that have been reviewed on this site – have appeared before on CD. DG’s 9 CD box called ‘Igor Markevitch; un véritable artist’ contained a sizeable number of them but this is the first time that this body of recordings has been issued complete. They were made in Berlin, Paris, Prague and New York between 1953 and 1965 and the set is an ‘original jacket’ one. They have been newly remastered.

What you should also know is that production standards with Eloquence are very high, that the booklet notes by Peter Quantrill are up to his own high standards and that photographic reproduction is excellent. Markevitch has always been a favourite of collectors, and his legacy, for the most part, fortunately falls into handy multi-volume boxes such as this one.

Jonathan Woolf

CD 1
Luigi CHERUBINI (1760–1842)
Requiem No 2 in D minor
Czech Philharmonic Chorus & Orchestra
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Mass in C major, KV 317 ‘Krönungsmesse’ (1959 recording)
Maria Stader, soprano
Oralia Dominguez, contralto
Ernst Haefliger, tenor
Michel Roux, bass
Choeurs Elisabeth Brasseur
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Recording Locations: Salle de la Mutualité, Paris, France, 17 & 19–21 December 1959 (Mozart); Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic, 7–8 December 1962 (Cherubini)

CD 2
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Symphony No 34 in C major, KV 338*
Symphony No 38 in D major, KV 504 ‘Prague’*
Berliner Philharmoniker
Recording Location: Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany, 22–28 February 1954
Symphony No 35 in D major, KV 385 ‘Haffner’*
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714–1787)
Sinfonia in G major (Arr. Hans Gál)
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Recording Location: Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France, 28 October & 6 November 1957 (Mozart); Salle Pleyel, Paris, France, 7 June 1958 (Gluck)
*mono recordings

CD 3
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Bassoon Concerto in B-flat major, KV 191
Maurice Allard, bassoon
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Joseph HAYDN (1732–1809)
Sinfonia concertante in B-flat major, H.I: 105*
Georges Alès, violin · André Remond, cello
Émile Mayousse, oboe · Raymond Droulez, bassoon
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Domenico CIMAROSA (1749–1801)
Concerto for two flutes in G major*
Aurèle Nicolet, Fritz Demmler, flutes
Berliner Philharmoniker
Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828)
Symphony No 3 in D major, D.200*
Berliner Philharmoniker
Recording Locations: Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany 26–28 February 1954 (Schubert), 19, 20 December 1954 (Cimarosa); Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, France, 29, 30 October 1957 (Haydn); Polydor-Studio, Paris, France, 4–5 December 1958 (Mozart)
*mono recordings

CD 4
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770–1827)
Overture: Egmont, Op 84
Overture: Leonore III
Overture: Fidelio, Op 72
Overture: Coriolan, Op 62
Overture: Zur Namensfeier, Op 115
Overture: Die Weihe des Hauses, Op 124
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Recording Location: Polydor-Studio, Paris, France, 25 November 1958 (Coriolan), 26 November 1958 (Egmont, Leonore, Zur Namensfeier), 28 November 1958 (Die Weihe des Hauses), 29 November 1958 (Fidelio)

CD 5
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Symphony No 3 in E-flat major, Op 55 ‘Eroica’*
Symphony of the Air
Recording Location: Manhattan Center, New York, USA, 19–21 December 1956 & 30 January 1957
*mono recording

CD 6
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN
Symphony No 6 in F major, Op 68 ‘Pastoral’*
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Recording Location: Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris, France, 21–25 October 1957 & 8 November 1957
*mono recording

CD 7
Johannes BRAHMS (1833–1897)
Symphony No 1 in C minor, Op 68*
Symphony of the Air
Recording Location: Manhattan Center, New York, United States, 19–21 December 1956
*mono recording

CD 8
Johannes BRAHMS
Symphony No 4 in E minor, Op 98
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Recording Location: Polydor-Studio, Paris, France, 20–24 November 1958
Hector BERLIOZ (1803–1869)
Harold en Italie, Op 16*
Heinz Kirchner, viola
Berliner Philharmoniker
Recording Location: Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany, 8–15 December 1955
*mono recording

CD 9
Symphonie fantastique, Op 14 (1961 recording)
Luigi CHERUBINI (1760–1842)
Anacréon: Overture
Daniel AUBER (1782–1871)
La muette de Portici, S.16: Overture
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Recording Location: Salle de la Mutualité, Paris, France, 11–17 January 1961 (Berlioz), 17–18 (Cherubini, Auber) January 1961

CDs 10–11
La Damnation de Faust, Op 24
Faust - Richard Verreau
Marguerite - Consuelo Rubio
Méphistophélès - Michel Roux
Brander - Pierre Mollet
Chœurs Elisabeth Brasseur
Chœur Enfants RTF
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Recording Location: Salle de la Mutualité, Paris, France, 4–6 & 12–14 May 1959

CD 12
Charles GOUNOD (1818–1893)
Symphony No 2 in E-flat major*
Georges BIZET (1838–1875)
Jeux d’enfants, Op 22*
Claude DEBUSSY (1862–1918)
La Mer
Danse sacrée et Danse profane
Suzanne Cotelle, harp (Debussy: Danses)
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Recording Locations: Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Paris, France, 8, 10, 11 November 1957 (Gounod, Bizet); Salle de la Mutualité, Paris, France, 2 March (Debussy: Danses), 2–3 May 1959 (Debussy: La Mer)
*mono recordings

CD 13
Nikolai RIMSKY-KORSAKOV (1844–1908)
Russian Easter Festival Overture, Op 36*
Overture: May Night
Le Coq d’or – Suite
Alexander BORODIN (1833–1887)
In the Steppes of Central Asia
Anatoly LYADOV (1855–1914)
Fragment de l’Apocalypse – Tableau symphonique pour orchestre, Op 66
Mikhail GLINKA (1804–1857)
Overture: Ruslan and Lyudmila
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Recording Locations: Salle Pleyel, Paris, France, 12 November 1957 (Russian Easter Festival Overture), 8–10 (Le Coq d’or), 11 (May Night) June 1958; Salle de la Mutualité, Paris, France, 15 December 1959 (Borodin, Glinka), 23 May 1960 (Lyadov)
*mono recordings

CD 14
Peter Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840–1893)
Symphony No 6 in B minor, Op 74 ‘Pathétique’*
Berliner Philharmoniker
Francesca da Rimini, Op 32
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Recording Locations: Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany, 1–4 December 1953; Salle de la Mutualité, Paris, France, 9, 15 December 1959*mono recording

CD 15
Richard WAGNER (1813–1883)
Lohengrin: Preludes to Acts I & III
Tannhäuser: Overture
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Tannhäuser: Venusberg Music (Bacchanale)*
Siegfried Idyll*
Die Walküre: Walkürenritt*
Berliner Philharmoniker
Recording Locations: Salle Pleyel, Paris, France, 12, 13 June 1958 (Tannhäuser: Overture), 13 June 1958 June 1958 (Lohengrin: Prelude to Act I), 19 November 1958 (Lohengrin: Prelude to Act II); Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany, 7–8 December 1954 (Siegfried Idyll), 14–15 December 1954 (Tannhäuser: Venusberg Music), 19–20 December 1954 (Die Walküre)
*mono recordings

CD 16
Darius MILHAUD (1892–1974)
Les Choéphores, Op 24*
Genevieve Moizan, soprano
Hélène Bouvier, mezzo-soprano (Electre)
Heinz Rehfuss, baritone (Oreste)
Claude Nollier, speaker
Chorale de l’Université de Paris
Georges Gitton, chorus master
Arthur HONEGGER (1892–1955)
Symphony No 5 ‘Di tre re’*
Albert ROUSSEL (1869–1937)
Bacchus et Ariane, Op 43 – Suite No 2
Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux
Recording Locations: Salle Wagram, Paris, France, 16, 18–19, 22 March 1957 (Milhaud), 25–27 March 1957 (Honegger); Salle de la Mutualité, Paris, France 2–3 December 1958 (Roussel)
*mono recordings

CD 17
Symphonie fantastique, Op 14 (1953 recording)*
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839–1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Ravel)*
Berliner Philharmoniker
Recording Location: Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany, 23–29 November 1953 (Berlioz), 21–25 February 1953 (Mussorgsky)
*mono recordings

CD 18
Franz BERWALD (1796–1868)
Symphony No 3 in C major ‘Singulière’*
Symphony No 4 in E-flat major*
Symphony No 4 in C minor, D.417 ‘Tragic’*
Berliner Philharmoniker
Recording Location: Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany, December 1954 (Schubert), December 1955 (Berwald)
*mono recordings

CDs 19–20
Joseph HAYDN
Die Schöpfung, Hob. XI: 2*
Irmgard Seefried, soprano
Richard Holm, tenor
Kim Borg, bass
Chor der St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale, Berlin
Berliner Philharmoniker
Recording Location: Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany, 6–11 May 1955
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART
Mass in C major, KV 317 ‘Krönungsmesse’ (1954 recording)*
Maria Stader, soprano
Sieglinde Wagner, contralto
Helmut Krebs, tenor
Josef Greindl, bass
Chor der St. Hedwigs-Kathedrale
Berliner Philharmoniker
Recording Location: Jesus-Christus-Kirche, Berlin, Germany, 18–21 February 1954
*mono recordings

CD 21
Charles GOUNOD
Messe solennelle de Sainte Cécile
Irmgard Seefried, soprano
Gerhard Stolze, tenor
Hermann Uhde, bass
Czech Philharmonic Chorus
Josef Veselka, chorus master
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Recording Location: Rudolfinum, Prague, Czech Republic, 26–29 June 1965
An Interview with Igor Markevitch*
Recorded: Fine Recording Studios, New York, USA, 2 August 1957 (Decca Tape DS2673)
*mono recordings

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