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The Early Years - Markevitch Conducts Stravinsky


Release Date: 08/16/2012 
Label:  Philips   Catalog #: 438973   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Jean-Marie FerteyJean CocteauPeter UstinovAnne Tonietti
Conductor:  Igor Markevitch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony OrchestraUSSR State Academy Symphony OrchestraUSSR State Academy Chorus,   ... 
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in:   
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This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.

Notes and Editorial Reviews

The two lgors were not always on the best of terms. Stravinsky seems to have bitterly resented Diaghilev's partiality for "little Markevitch", and agreed with Ansermet that the "stammering and feebleness of thought" evinced by the young man's occasional journalism carried over into his efforts as a composer. When Markevitch gave up composing in favour of conducting and emerged as one of Stravinsky's most ardent post-war champions, Stravinsky's attitude softened, although the evidence here suggests that Markevitch continued to resist the sometimes emasculating refinement of the composer's own efforts in the studio. As Pierre Barbier puts it in the notes, "He was incapable of thinking of his celebrated older colleague Read more as anything but a Russian émigré".

If none of the recordings here quite reaches the standard of Markevitch's classic (second, 1959) Philharmonia Rite (EMI, 5/91—nla), they are scarcely less remarkable. In execution and engineering, this Apollo is perceptibly less modern and springy than the revelatory ASMF chamber version which came a few years later (Argo, 10/68—nla); even so, it sounds extraordinarily good for its date. String vibrato is often sweeter than we expect today, the fuller textures and smoothed-over lines tending to heaviness here and there. And yet there is more sense of character and dramatic incident than one usually encounters in this work; the "Variation of Polyhymnia" has tremendous balletic dash and flair. The slow winding-down of the "Variation of Apollo" may not be quite unanimous but the rapt account of the succeeding "Pas de deux" more than makes amends.

The "Apotheosis" eschews austerity yet has the kind of miraculous rightness that Prokofiev, forever sceptical about Stravinsky's stylistic experiments, found so rewarding in this music. The shorter pieces on the first disc come off very well, even when Markevitch's characteristic brusqueness puts his close-miked wind soloists under strain.

The Four Norwegian Moods have usually been ranked among Stravinsky's less essential creations. Under Markevitch they seem more than usually spirited and persuasive. Writing to Stravinsky in 1949, Markevitch described the attitude of the Oslo orchestra at the first rehearsals: "Most of the elements, which you borrowed either from their folklore or their composers, were familiar, but the musicians were astonished to find these elements in a context so remote from the sentimental one in which they are generally expressed. Some performers were furious and refused to play, imagining that you were mocking Norway! I had quite a time persuading them that you had no such intention and that, on the contrary, they should be proud of this charming homage."

The second CD contains two famous recordings. For me, L'histoire du soldat (delivered in the original French) is a shade disappointing. Markevitch attracted an all-star cast to Vevey in 1962, celebrating his fiftieth birthday in style in the town in which he had spent much of his childhood. Jean Cocteau, nearing the end of his life, is an unexpectedly muted, rather guttural Narrator, while Peter Ustinov does much less with the Devil's part than, say, Vanessa Redgrave—outrageously camping it up for Kent Nagano's spick-and-span digital account (Pangea, 4/89—nla). The Symphony of Psalms commemorates another gala occasion which Markevitch supervised on his return to the former Soviet Union during Khrushchev's 'Thaw'. The results are fascinating, if raw sounding, a fervent act of repatriation squaring nicely with Markevitch's nationalistic view of the composer. Woodwind keys clatter, brass pitch erratically— the chorus is certainly top-heavy as miked (Markevitch employs a boys' choir)—but the overall effect will move anyone not in thrall to the glacial severity (and greater technical security) of the composer's own 1963 version. While there is some distortion on the mastertape here, ES was unimpressed by Markevitch's subsequent concert relay on Disques Montaigne: the Philips is the performance to go for. An intriguing package then, spoilt as so often these days by the absence of texts.

-- Gramophone [2/1995]
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Works on This Recording

1.
Apollon musagète by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Igor Markevitch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: France 
Date of Recording: 1963 
2.
Suite no 1 for small Orchestra by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Igor Markevitch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917-1925; France 
Date of Recording: 1963 
3.
Suite no 2 for small Orchestra by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Igor Markevitch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1921; France 
Date of Recording: 1963 
4.
Four Norwegian Moods by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Igor Markevitch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; USA 
Date of Recording: 1963 
5.
Circus Polka by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Igor Markevitch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1942; USA 
Date of Recording: 1963 
6.
Symphony of Psalms by Igor Stravinsky
Conductor:  Igor Markevitch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  USSR State Academy Symphony Orchestra,  USSR State Academy Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1930/1948; France 
Date of Recording: 1962 
Language: Latin 
7.
L'histoire du soldat by Igor Stravinsky
Performer:  Jean-Marie Fertey (Spoken Vocals), Jean Cocteau (Spoken Vocals), Peter Ustinov (Spoken Vocals),
Anne Tonietti (Spoken Vocals)
Conductor:  Igor Markevitch
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Instrumental Ensemble
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1918; Switzerland 
Date of Recording: 1962 
Language: French 

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