Albert Markov (b. 1933) belongs to a long tradition of executant-composers. He studied the violin with Piotr Stoliarsky and Yuri Yankelevich and composition with Aram Khatchaturian and Genrikh Litinsky. His solo career was launched after winning the gold medal at the Queen Elizabeth International Competition in Brussels. In 1975 he relocated to the USA, and has taught at the Manhattan School of Music since 1981. His pedagogical endeavours are widely recognized. As a composer he’s written 3 operas, a symphony, a violin concerto and numerous other works for the instrument.
This recently released 2 CD set from Doremi’s Legendary Treasures series announces itself as Volume 1, and contains recordings made by Markov for Melodiya between 1956 and 1963. There are three concerto performances, whilst the remainder are works for violin and piano, in which the violinist is partnered by Serafima Chernyakhovskaya on piano.
Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor “La Campanella” is the perfect vehicle to showcase Markov's astounding virtuosity. I much prefer this concerto to the more frequently played First. The composer had an abiding love of Italian opera, especially that of Rossini, and the Concerto's operatic character has immense appeal. The pyrotechnical demands require a technique of the first order with double-stops, thirds, sixths, tenths, harmonics, left-hand pizzicatos and glissandos abounding. Markov’s bow technique, especially in difficult ricochet bowing, easily matches Ricci's. The "Campanella" finale has real gypsy swagger, verve and vigour. It doesn't get much better than this.
The Georgian composer Bidzina Kverbadze is a new name to me. He studied composition with Andria Balanchivadze at the Conservatory of Music in Tbilisi, where he graduated in 1953. His Violin Concerto dates from 1956. The opener is tuneful and expansive and delicately balances brusque, angular discourse with moments of beguiling lyricism. Markov's intonation in the cadenza, saturated with double-stop passages is faultless. The central Andante's outpouring of serene radiance can't fail to woo and captivate. In parts it reminded me of the slow movement of the Korngold Concerto. Markov is a master of expressive moulding of long melodic lines. The finale's biting rhythmic punches and dash have a Khachaturial flavour. Zakhary Khorodze and the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra provide admirable support.
Ulvi Cemal Erkin’s Violin Concerto (1947) is a work I'm very fond of. In three movements and tonally based, it offers the soloist the opportunity to exploit the full range and potential of the instrument, especially in the imposing cadenza which sits midway in the opening movement. Markov emerges with flying colours. Romantic warmth and lyricism run its course. The ardent and tender slow movement is rendered with burnished intensity. The 'Turkish' finale is a delight, a potpourri of nationalistic devices with very much an improvisatory feel, a fusion of elements drawn from Eastern and Western music. I previously reviewed a recording of the Concerto played by James Burwell on Naxos. That was a studio recording, Markov's performance is live and, as such, there's more electricity and fire generated, albeit in less quality sound. I certainly prefer the Markov for the sheer spontaneity and the excitement factor.
As for the collaborations with pianist Serafima Chernyakhovaskaya, the Corelli “La folia” Variations, in an arrangement by Fritz Kreisler, begin with a theme of great nobility. Markov's silken tone and expressive slides are very much in evidence. Staccatos are crisply articulated, and tight rhythmic control is maintained throughout. Similar qualities can be found in the Handel Sonata in G minor, which has an Allegretto finale with a lovely buoyant lilt. The Brahms/Kreisler Hungarian Dance No.7 in F sharp minor is tinged with melancholy. Paganini's Le Streghe (arr. Kreisler) and the solo Caprice No.7, once again, stand comparison with Ruggiero Ricci's recordings of these pieces. The Falla/Kreisler Spanish Dance is delivered with suitable gusto and panache. Chernyakhovaskaya is remarkable, being acutely responsive to all the subtlety of nuance and inflection in Markov's playing.
Having listened to this wonderful collection, I totally agree with the Baltimore Evening Sun critic who wrote that "Mr Markov is in the grand tradition of Russian violinists, in the line of Heifetz, Milstein and Oistrakh. His virtuosity is phenomenal and the flexibility of his bow arm is unbelievable". The first-class remasterings have been carried out by Jacob Harnoy and Clive Allen. I’m certainly looking forward to Volume 2.
Niccolo PAGANINI (1782-1840)
Violin concerto No.2 in B minor “La Campanella”, Op.7 (1826) [30:51] Bidzina KVERNADZE (1928-2010)
Violin concerto (1956) [28:37] Ulvi Cemal ERKIN (1906-1972)
Violin concerto (1947) [28:26] Arcangelo CORELLI (1653-1713)
Violin sonata in D minor, Op.5 No.12 La Folia arr. Kreisler [10:19] George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Violin sonata in G minor Op.1 No.10 [10:25] Carl Maria von WEBER (1786-1826)
Violin sonata in F, Op.10a No. 1; 2nd mvt Romance, arr. Kreisler as ‘Larghetto’ [2:29] Fritz KREISLER (1875-1962)
Allegretto in G major in the style of Boccherini [3:03] Cyril Meir SCOTT (1879-1970)
Lotus Land, Op. 47 No.1 (1905) arr. Kreisler [4:47] Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Hungarian Dance No.17 in F sharp minor, arr. Kreisler [3:52] Niccolo PAGANINI
Sonata in A minor, Op.3 No.4 arr. Agarkov [5:03]
Le Streghe (Witches' Dance): Variations on a theme from Sussmeyer’s Il noce di Benevento, Op. 8 [12:27]
Caprice for solo violin, Op.1 No.7 in A minor [3:52] Aram KHACHATURIAN (1903-1978)
Chanson-poeme in E minor (1929) [4:59] Dmitry KABALEVSKY (1904-1987)
Improvisation, Op.21 (1934) [4:00] Fritz KREISLER
Gypsy Caprice [4:44] Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Spanish dance from La Vida Breve (1905) arr. Kreisler [3:25]
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