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Albert Markov, Vol. 1 – The Melodiya Recordings, 1956-1963 = Works for Violin performed by Markov and Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra/ Gennady Rozhdestvensky)/ Zakhary Krurodze/ USSR Cinema Symphony Orchestra/ Hajibeyov Niyazi/ Serafina Chernyakhovskaya, piano [Full content list below] – DOREMI DHR-8067/8 (2 CDs) 80:00; 79:50 [Distrib. By Naxos] *****:

Albert Markov (b. 1933) made a spectacular impression upon me in Atlanta, where he performed the Tchaikovsky Concerto without cuts.  His warmly fluent, virtuosic style and piercing intonation had me and the entire ASO audience in an uproarious standing ovation. Born in Kharkov, Ukraine, Markov studied with Yuri Yankelevitch, the noted pedagogue and teacher of luminaries Leonid Kogan and Vladimir Spivakov. Markov won second place at the 1959 Queen Elisabeth Violin Competition in Brussels.  He emigrated to the USA in 1975. Since 1981, he has been teaching at the Manhattan School of Music.

Niccolo Paganini

Niccolo Paganini

Markov wastes no time in astonishing us with his gifts—easily rivaling the virtuosity of Ruggiero Ricci–in the B minor Concerto of Paganini, wherein the first movement cadenza and the entire last movement “La Campanella” should keep hearts and feet pounding. Rozhdestvensky and his ensemble appear no less inspired by Markov’s presence, and the effect raises the musical roof. The ensuing 1956 Violin Concerto by the Georgian composer Bidzina Kvernadze (1928-2010) proves surprisingly accessible on all counts: rhythmically engaging and melodically attractive.  In its more pulsating figures, the Concerto’s expansive first movement Allegro con fuoco easily reminds us of elements in Khachaturian, but the melodic strain feels ardently independent of influence. The double-stops of the cadenza incur several hair-raising effects, and the transition to the tempestuous coda provides a real punch. The lyrical Andante opens with a wind and harp muezzin call much in the manner of Ippolitov-Ivanov. The music then flowers into several alluring mixes of wind and low string elements to support Markov’s throaty middle or high tessitura. The brass and battery that enter the latter part of the movement expand the gloss of the piece dramatically. The last movement, Finale: Allegro thrusts forward in the splashy figures of a dervish-dance which suggest a confluence of Khachaturian and Gershwin. The striking colors of Markov’s violin in tandem with muted brass and clashing cymbals proves delectable. Again, the secondary melody proves fluent and attractive, convincing us that Markov and conductor Khurodze have unveiled a relatively modern work worthy of more familiarity.

Disc One ends with two pieces in Baroque style: Markov addresses the Kreisler arrangement of Corelli’s familiar set of variations on La folia, Op. 5, No. 12, the inspiration to Liszt, Glinka and Rachmaninoff. Markov’s etched focus, razor-sharp intonation, and innate nobility of line certainly bears comparison to the art of Nathan Milstein in this repertory. The four-movement Sonata in G minor by Handel invests a galant element into Markov’s approach of the opening Andante, an eminently fervent, singing line that, given his explosive cadenza near the conclusion of La folia, makes us wish a recording of his Beethoven Concerto as soon as possible. The bright tenor of the succeeding Allegro has intimacy and salon pomp, facile and charming at once. The stately Adagio leads to the spirited Allegretto finale, a typically gentle, Handelian revel in small, repeated figures that entrance us and end quite before we are ready to say farewell.

Disc Two comprises a series of Romantic, virtuoso pieces that we know from long familiarity with other violin luminaries, such as Heifetz, Morini, Milstein, and Francescatti. Fritz Kreisler provides a number of staples: the Weber slow movement from his F Major Sonata, followed by the Allegretto “modeled” after Boccherini. More Kreisler captures the Hungarian mystique in Brahms; the sultry, exotic charm of Scott’s “Lotus Land”; and the explosive, double-stopped and quick-pizzicato allure of the Falla Danse Espagnole from La Vida breve. For Kreisler himself, without the fake ascriptions to the Baroque, we have his savvy Gypsy Caprice, typically witty as both “martial” caricature and stylistic character piece.  From master Paganini we have, first, one of his sonatas for violin and guitar as transcribed by Agarkov, the Sonata in A minor, sweetly ardent in its cantilena and then eminently fanciful in its concluding dance. Markov then gives us the extended Le Streghe Variations, Op. 8, based on Sussmeyer’s opera, Il noce di Benevento. A Ricci specialty, this piece enjoys a range of affects and effects, the dainty to the symphonic, the idea’s attempting to depict “the Witch.”  The one solo piece, Caprice No. 7, enjoys some modal harmony in the course of wide range and sudden shifts of bow position and bowed strokes. Khachaturian composed his E minor Chanson-poeme in 1929, in which the piano imitates the cembalom or the harp, and the violin sails and muses in various, flowing registers, including extended bariolage passages. The Kabalevsky Improvisation, Op. 21 begins by honoring solo Bach, but it then has the piano join in for some dark meditation that gains power and passion. Halfway through the piece, the mood becomes quiet and resigned, only to build once more to a potent ecstasy.

The collection ends with the Violin Concerto (1947) by Turkish composer Ulvi Cemal Erkin (1906-1972), one of several – the so-called “Turkish Five”—of the nation’s modern composers to study in Paris, where both Nadia Boulanger and Alfred Cortot served as major influences. Erkin combines national rhythms and modes–minus quarter-tone harmony–with a strong lyricism that seeks out polyphonic procedures for development. Despite rasping sonorities and biting, convulsive rhythms, the music swells with an angular warmth and powerful expressivity.  Woodwinds typically alternate with string ostinatos and pedal points to color an Eastern sky. We might detect the presence of Bartok in terms of hues and dramatic punctuations. A potent cadenza appears in the middle of the first movement Allegro giusto, reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s option.  The orchestra resumes with the heavy tread of the tympani and cymbals, while Markov exploits slashing figures and modal scalar passages from the improvisatory aspects of Taksim tradition.  The Adagio proffers a meditative, misty love song whose angular, martial beauty in a steadfast pace may remind some of the slow movement in the Sibelius Concerto.  Erkin marks his last movement Scherzo, a manic and driven dance that shimmers in transparent colors when the orchestra wants an alternative to the frenzy of whirling dervishes. The secondary tune projects national nostalgia. The music often spirals in a manner that smoke from a hookah might lift into the air. The da capo wild momentum returns with vigor, and Markov and conductor Niyazi obviously relish the intricacies and mesmeric riffs of the intoxicated, festive dance.   The last crash of the cymbals and the eruption of applause reminds us that the singular intensities have all come to us via a live broadcast.

2 CD Content:
PAGANINI:
Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor, Op. 7;
Sonata in A minor, Op. 3, No. 4;
Le Streghe, Op. 8;
Caprice in A minor, Op. 1, No. 7;
KVERNADZE: Violin Concerto (1956);
ERKIN: Violin Concerto (1947);
CORELLI: Violin Sonata in D minor, Op. 5, No. 12;
HANDEL: Violin Sonata in G minor, Op. 1, No. 10;
WEBER: Larghetto (arr. Kreisler);
KREISLER: Allegretto in G Major; Gypsy Caprice;
SCOTT: Lotus Land, Op. 47, No. 1;
BRAHMS: Hungarian Dance No. 17 in F-sharp minor;
KHACHATURIAN: Chanson-poeme in E minor;
KABALEVSKY: Improvisation, Op. 21;
FALLA: Danse Espagnole from La Vida breve (arr. Kreisler)

—Gary Lemco