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Igor Markevitch: Complete Orchestral Works Vol 1 / Lyndon-Gee

Release Date: 09/30/2008 
Label:  Naxos   Catalog #: 8570773   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Igor Markevitch
Performer:  Martijn van den HoekSarah WalkerLucy SheltonJon Garrison
Conductor:  Christopher Lyndon-Gee
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Arnhem Philharmonic OrchestraNetherlands Concert Choir
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 16 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MARKEVITCH Partita. 1 Paradise Lost 2 Christopher Lyndon-Gee, cond; Martijn van den Hoek (pn); 1 Lucy Shelton ( Eve ); 2 Sarah Walker ( Life ); 2 Jon Garrison ( Satan Read more class="ARIAL12">); 2 Netherlands Concert Ch; 2 Arnhem PO NAXOS 8.570773 (75: 37)

Most collectors know Igor Markevitch as a highly expressive conductor of French and Russian masterpieces. Here is Igor Markevitch the prodigiously talented composer, who by 18, was the darling of 1930s fashionable Paris. Acclaimed the “second Igor,” (arousing the jealousy of Stravinsky—not a hard thing to do), he was promoted by Diaghilev, Scherchen, Bartók, and his teacher Nadia Boulanger. He turned his back on writing music at the age of 30, after an apparent crisis in will. He switched to conducting and never composed again. A few years before his death in 1983, he was persuaded to revisit his youthful works. Naxos released an acclaimed seven-disc marco polo edition starting in 1997, but it has only been sporadically available here. Now, a complete Markevitch edition, consisting of this new release and a budget reissue of the marco polo releases, is promised by Naxos.

Volume 1 consists of two early works; the quirky Partita, a second piano concerto in all but name, and an ambitious oratorio based on Milton’s Paradise Lost ( Le paradis perdu ). Partita is technically an amazing work for an 18-year-old. It is also loud, brash, and quite entertaining. Though the piece is stronger in ideas than in development of them, it clearly signals a major talent in the making. Lyndon-Gee acknowledges its faults in his extensive notes, but that signals no lack of commitment in his interpretation. The Arnhem Philharmonic tackles the many challenges with great energy and, except for a bit of scrappy string tone under pressure and occasionally less than unanimous intonation, the playing is very fine. Martijn van den Hoek dispatches the daunting piano part with apparent ease.

Le paradis perdu —financed by the husband of Markevitch’s then mistress and sponsored by the BBC, who broadcast its first performance under his direction—is a setting of a text he loosely derived from the Milton classic. It is an overreaching effort by the young composer to come to terms with one of the most profound literary works in the English language. Ultimately, the work has little to do with Milton or with effective drama. The verse is stilted, the characters are wooden, and the confrontation between the powers of good and evil are boiled down to a tedious quarrel. The eating of the fruit, the central event of the work, occurs between acts. What almost saves the piece is the music itself; with an ominous, ritualistic restraint, exotic orchestration, and irregular rhythms, it generally maintains interest where the text provides none.

Recorded live, Le paradis perdu apparently presented some difficulties to the engineers. The chorus, especially in part II, is indistinct. Tenor Jon Garrison is sufficiently off-mike to mute his characterization of Satan and to mitigate the fact that his is the best French pronunciation in a non-French cast. Soprano Lucy Shelton, who eventually gains control of a significant wobble but not her indistinct diction, and veteran mezzo Sarah Walker, who sings nobly if also indistinctly, make the most of their insubstantial characters. The chorus depicts the heavenly host rather cautiously, and complex sections of the score sound insecure. Lyndon-Gee and the orchestra acquit themselves well, but one can imagine a more incisive performance. It is too bad that this is the first Naxos release in the series, as the marco polo releases are reputed to be well done and to contain more substantial works. This volume is worth acquiring for the Partita and for the beginning of a complete picture of Markevitch’s development as a composer.

FANFARE: Ronald E. Grames
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Works on This Recording

Partita by Igor Markevitch
Performer:  Martijn van den Hoek (Piano)
Conductor:  Christopher Lyndon-Gee
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1931 
Le paradis perdu by Igor Markevitch
Performer:  Sarah Walker (Mezzo Soprano), Lucy Shelton (Soprano), Jon Garrison (Tenor)
Conductor:  Christopher Lyndon-Gee
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra,  Netherlands Concert Choir
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1933-1934; Switzerland 

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