Igor Markevitch – Complete Orchestral Music, Volume 6 (Marco Polo)

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Cantate *
Icare (Revised Version)
Piano Concerto

Nienke Oostenrijk (soprano) *
Men’s Voices of the Netherlands Concert Choir *

Martijn van den Hoek (piano)

Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra
Christopher Lyndon-Gee

Recorded in 1998 and 1999 in Musis Sacrum, Arnhem

Reviewed by: Colin Anderson

Reviewed: January 2004
CD No: MARCO POLO 8.225076

Volume 6 of Marco Polo’s invaluable and enlightening series of the complete orchestral music of Igor Markevitch (1912-1983), best known as a distinguished conductor of course, continues apace and equally continues to deliver the goods. Naxos’s big brother (if you will), Marco Polo, is to be congratulated!

Whether Markevitch stopped composing because of the pressures of an international conducting career or because he had run out of ideas is immaterial; what he composed in his precocious youth is original, imaginative and founded on a very impressive technique.

Actually the Piano Concerto’s first movement’s motoric drive belongs very much to its time (late ’20s) and one is disappointed that Markevitch joined the bandwagon; but then a series of fortissimo punctuating chords try to break the flow, and one is again gratified by Markevitch’s character.

In the exuberant opening to Cantate, one might cite Bach, Stravinsky and Prokofiev … but in some respects the search for an influence or reference is fruitless; young Markevitch (17 at the time of composition, a year on from the concerto!) in his invention, layout and scoring is wholly personal and focussed. The endless, rather dark, ever-intensifying melody of the second movement is generously sung by Nienke Oostenrijk. The fugue that erupts in the third movement belongs organically and establishes the order out of chaos that Markevitch was seeking, yet without any recourse to academia.Cantate closes with the most beautiful of envois. This is music of confidence, technical assurance and outgoing communication.

Icare is heard in its revision. Gone are the experiments of the first version (Marco Polo 8.223666). The amendments do not deny Icare its quotient of novelty – beguiling, unpredictable, suggestive, and further evidence of Markevitch’s individuality and ingenuity. Icare, in either version, is music demanding to be heard. Certainly, Markevitch’s use of percussion, rarely obvious, and his mastery of layered rhythms, is creation of high intelligence and resource.

These dedicated performances, very well recorded, are enhanced by Christopher Lyndon-Gee’s well-researched and informed booklet note. Urgently recommended!

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