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Steve Schwartz
Classical Net, September 2012

Markevitch wrote Psaume almost as an “answer” to Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. The music, typical of a lot of Markevitch, exploits the tension between chaos and primitive ritual. The ritual is the controlling vessel for chaotic energy. This erupts in the very opening measures with a steady intonation in octaves spilling over into wild orchestral whoops. The slow movement, which follows without a break, begins with a long flute solo. Gradually, the soloist joins in a duet, followed by basses and timpani. The psalms express atonement, and you do get that from the music—the penitent soul before God—but the score also sings of intense mysticism.

No complaints about the chorus and orchestra. Lyndon-Gee has strongly championed Markevitch in the past and does so here…keeping a well-defined shape in the music. A standout disc in the Naxos series. © 2012 Classical Net Read complete review

Bob Briggs
MusicWeb International, August 2010

Although commissioned, and written as such, as a ballet, Rébus [MARKEVITCH Complete Orchestral Works Vol 4 - 8.572154] never seems to have been danced! It doesn’t matter for it makes a splendid six movement orchestral suite. Because of the ballet element there is, perhaps, more thematic interweaving than one might normally get in an orchestral suite, but this only aids the listener when listening to it for the first time. It’s a more difficult piece than L’envol d’Icare [MARKEVITCH Complete Orchestral Works Vol 3 - Cantique d'Amour, L'Envol d'Icare, Concerto Grosso 8.572153], which was written two years later, but here the composer is coming to terms with a neo-classical style, which, perhaps, doesn’t sit too comfortably on his young shoulders. That said, it’s a fine piece of work, with each movement clearly and distinctly characterised with spiky orchestration and a sense of fun. It might be that there is just a little too much insistence on repetitive rhythms—the final Parade is almost too much to bear in its continued sameness, but as he had dance in mind when composing there is probably a really good reason for this.

The Hymnes [MARKEVITCH Complete Orchestral Works Vol 4 - 8.572154] consist of a Prelude and three Hymns with the Hymne à la Mort added later, and being a version of the last of the Trois Poèmes for voice and piano of 1935. According to the notes, as late as 1980 Markevitch was making small changes to the score—surely this proves that he never lost sight of his musical roots as a composer. This performance uses the original score as Lyndon-Gee sees the later edition as “…crude, and by no means tonally more effective than the original.” This is a much more serious work than Rébus, and it’s hard to believe that it was written only a year later, so great is the assurance of the composer in his use of material and of the orchestra, when compared to the earlier piece. The second Hymn is especially elegant, starting as a clarinet solo, over sustained strings, and developing into a duet with flute. This is quite beautiful. The following movement is full of rhythmic interplay, and it’s very exciting and freely tonal, but Markevitch spoils what he has written by putting two loud common chords at the end, which are totally out of place with the rest of the music. The final Hymne à la Mort is very slow and packed with atmosphere, the music quietly making its weary way to its conclusion, ending with the stroke of a bell.

Lorenzo il Magnifico [MARKEVITCH Complete Orchestral Music Vol 5 - Lorenzo il Magnifico, Psaume] was Markevitch’s penultimate work—only the Variations, Fugue and Envoi on a Theme of Handel, for piano, remained to be written. Subtitled Sinfonia Concertante, this is a huge work, conceived in the broadest terms, and scored for a large orchestra. Four vocal movements surround a central orchestral meditation, which comes as something of a relief after much high-powered singing—both the music itself and the delivery.

With Psaume [MARKEVITCH complete Orchestral Music Vol 5 - Lorenzo il Magnifico, Psaume] we are back to the driven, slightly unsubtle, music heard in Rébus. There’s a rather mystical feel to this music but, at the same time, there’s a playfulness and a joy, perhaps in simply living...The orchestra is first rate, the notes very good and the sound clear and bright. If you’re still wondering whether or not to investigate this fascinating composer I recommend you start with Volume 3. If you’re already hooked then these are very exciting and rewarding issues.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, May 2010

Igor Markevitch was one of the distinguished conductors in the second half of the 20th century, yet the first sector of his life as a highly regarded composer is almost forgotten. A refugee in Switzerland, having fled Russia in 1914 with his musical parents, he spent his formative years studying the piano with his father. Precociously gifted it was his compositions that first captured the attention of influential musicians, including the impresario, Dyagilev. Linking him with his celebrated dance company, Ballets Russes, he launched Markevitch onto the international scene where he was enjoying considerable success before disaster struck at the age of twenty-nine when he suffered a mystery illness, and he chose never to return to composition. Those just coming to the composer would best start with Psaume, where strong rhythms will easily latch into your memory. He was twenty-one when he set fragments of seven psalms, the influence of Stravinsky shaping the score that is at times coloured with the primitive feel of Le Sacre du Printemps. Scored for soprano, six voices and large orchestra, he seldom uses them other than as chamber music. By contrast Lorenzo il Magnifico looks to lyricism rather than rhythm, and sets poems by Lorenzo de’ Medici, the person that gave the world the Renaissance era. It came just before Markevitch’s illness, the thematic material reluctant to lodge in my memory, and I admire rather than love the score. It is difficult to perform, a fact the Arnhem Philharmonic cannot quite conceal, though throughout they play with conviction for Christopher Lyndon-Gee, the conductor who has done much to energise this whole series. The soloist is the American soprano, Lucy Shelton, with members of Cappella Carolina as the chorus in Psaume.

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