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  • MARKEVITCH Igor

    Le Nouvel Age - Sinfonietta en fa majeur


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Date parution numérique : 15 mai 1997
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Igor Markevitch (1912-1983
) Cinema Overture
Le Nouvel Age
Sinfonietta in F major

Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra

Igor Markevitch (1912 -1983)

Igor Markevitch (1912 -1983)

 

Complete Orchestral Music Vol.1

Le Nouvel Age (World premiere recording)

Sinfonietta in F (World premiere recording)

Cinema- Ouverture (World premiere recording)

 

Apart from one work preserved on 78 r.p.m. discs, and a handful of radio broadcasts, the present series of recordings is the first ever made of the arrestingly original orchestral music of a composer hailed in the 1930s as one of the singular voices of his time, yet subsequently ignored - not least by himself. Thus, these discs may offer the beginnings of an opportunity to decipher the mystery that is Igor Markevitch.

 

Unless we include the precedent of Rossini, who retired from opera at 38, but continued to write salon music and sacred works, Markevitch"s renunciation at 29 of his identity as a composer is a unique case in the history of music. To quote David Drew: "It is a silence like no other in the music of this century or before." The eclipse during his lifetime of his reputation as a composer appears on the surface, more than any other single factor, due to the dimensions of his success as a conductor. What has yet to be fully explained, however, is why his life divides so dramatically and uncompromisingly into two halves - clearly a conscious decision on his part, and one whose true reasons this intensely private man seems to have sought to keep hidden. Markevitch"s last original composition was written in 1941 at the age of 29, and he never again returned to the creative endeavours that had brought him such renown and adulation when barely in his twenties.

 

The trauma of the Second World War marks a sharp dividing line during which the composer appears to have undergone a mental, as well as physical crisis - for in 1942 Markevitch suffered a serious illness while living in Tuscany, and in a letter of the same year, written during his recuperation, declared that he sensed himself "dead between two lives". But this alone cannot fully explain the reasons for his abandoning composition; and his autobiography Etre et avojr ete, published in 1980, obfuscates and misleads, even as it makes a show of revealing the writer"s inner life.

 

Markevitch is in no sense a "conductor-composer", as were Furtwängler, Klemperer, Weingartner and many others between the wars. On the contrary, he emerged first as a phenomenally gifted adolescent composer, exalted by his contemporaries on the basis of an astoundingly assured series of early scores, who turned to conducting almost reluctantly when required by his own work. Yet, after changing course to a career exclusively as conductor at thirty, he all but denied the existence of his own music until nearly seventy years old. When questioned in 1958 about his early life as composer, he diffidently replied:

I would say to you, very frankly, that I am objective enough to claim that there is music which needs to be heard before mine, and for which the need is more urgent. Apart from that, if my works are good enough, they can wait; and if they cannot wait, it is pointless to play them.

 

The facts of his "first life" are remarkable. Born in Kiev on 27th July, 1912, his family moved to Paris in 1914, before settling in Switzerland. As early as the age of thirteen, he played his piano suite Noces to Alfred Cortot, who recommended the work to his publishers and invited the boy to study with him.

 

In January 1929, before his seventeenth birthday, he enraptured Dyagilev with his Sinfonietta in F, leading in a matter of months to the young composer completing and playing his new piano Concerto at covent Garden (in concert form between L"apres-midi d"un faune and Renard, at what the influential social columns of London"s Sketch referred to as a "rehearsal party" for a select group of intelligentsia including, apparently, Virginia Woolf). Soon after, he began work on a major ballet-score, L "Habjt du Roi (The Emperor"s New Clothes), to be choreographed by Lifar with decor by Picasso. In short, he was at seventeen launched by Dyagilev on a path that brought world-wide fame as a composer by the time he was twenty.

 

?I was his last discovery? were Markevitch"s words in a revealing 1972 interview with John Gruen; and indeed, the manner in which Dyagilev, "the greatest agent-provocateur that ever existed" took him up must at least in part have been a journey into nostalgia for the impresario. Markevitch could hardly have entered more fully into the world of the Ballets-Russes, as he went on to marry Nijinsky"s daughter Kyra, though this marriage soon degenerated. So much so that during their war-time life in Italy, Bernard Berenson rather amusingly related that Igor and Kyra used to visit him alternately, since "when they were together their artistic temperaments tended to explode". They were estranged four years into this nine-year marriage, and Markevitch soon married again, though not before he and Kyra had had a son, Vaslav (nicknamed "Funtyki" by Berenson), named in honour of his grandfather.

 

The music of this extraordinary young man betrays no hint of immaturity: both in style and technique it is complete, utterly assured and deeply original. His Cantata of 1930, written on a text of Cocteau (and including music rescued from the sketches for L"Habit du Roi), brought forth the comment from Henri Sauget "...  it bears witness to a very fine mastery, and to a marvel1ous balance of intelligence and esprit." This eighteen-year-old, indeed, was hailed throughout Europe as perhaps the brightest hope in the musical firmament of that time. Only three years later Darius Milhaud wrote of the premiere of L"Envol d"Icare: "this work... will probably mark a date in the evolution of music".

 

Was this adulation more than the young composer could bear? Had Dyagilev put pressure on him, conscious or unconscious, to be the new Stravinsky, exactly thirty years on? His autobiography reveals a sense that the overnight glory which assailed him as Dyagilev"s protege caused such a break with the normal rhythms of adolescence that he felt a stranger had been born within, an alien persona that guided him beyond any of his desires.

 

It is undoubtedly more than coincidental that at nineteen Markevitch should have turned to the Icarus myth for his first truly individual work, L"Envol d"Icare, a score which he continued to re-work in various forms for more than a decade. Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and felt to earth, embodies a vivid image of the fate of the young composer, swept along by the frenetic Paris of the 1930s. Indeed, the most striking passage of Icare is the lengthy, hypnotic, ecstatic-obsessive "Death" that concludes the work, occupying nearly one-third of its duration.

 

The series of large-scale works that followed over the following brief eight years are a succession of masterpieces in constantly changing languages. Rebus and Le Nouvel Age both embody a Prokofiev-like grittiness married to that motoric moto perpetuo quality that so typifies the music of Albert Roussel, but in a more pointed harmonic framework, and continuing the exploration of multiple simultaneous polyrhythms that are Markevitch"s trademark. The all - too-brief Cantique d" Amour is a ravishing Ravelian essay in evocative colour, yet curiously emotionally detached. Psaume and the cantata-symphony Lorenzo Il Magnifico are massive and bold. The early works Sinfonietta, Concerto Grosso and Partita are memorable for far more than merely their youthful assurance of execution; their harmonic language explores beyond the conventional, and their polytonal and rhythmic ideas are searchingly original.

 

L"Envol d"Icare remains the singular work among these masterpieces, whether for its ascetic, pointil1istic scoring; its visionary use of quarter-tone tuning, harmonical1y so precisely calculated; its bril1iant exploitation of complex rhythmic simultaneities; or the sheer unique sound-world that it evokes from the orchestra. Above all, for the poise and emotional charge of its hypnotic "Death".

The achievement of Igor Markevitch bridges important gaps in our understanding of the period between the wars. His language is aggressively individual. Not neo-classical, it has classical restraint and a poise that is almost frigidly disciplined. In an aesthetic distant from the transmuted romanticism that propels the music of Berg and Schoenberg, he initiated an exploration of dissonance (through polytonality) that the perspective of the nineties can readily identify as a fertile harmonic path. Dissatisfied with what he seems to have perceived as the indulgent prettiness of impressionism, he sought a purity and detachment of style which were rare in this interbellum period of excess.

 

Igor Markevitch has so recently begun to emerge from the shadows in his "first incarnation" as a composer that an outline of the major events of this early phase of his life will be illuminating, not least, because it shows him in constant, intimate contact with innumerable other, and hitherto better-known major figures of the century .

 

1912               Born in Kiev, 27th July, to the pianist Boris Markevitch (a student of Eugene d" Albert) and to Zola Pokitonova.

1914               The Markevitch family flees Russia for Paris.

Markevitch grows up speaking primarily French, and will eventually write his autobiography Etre et avoir ete in French in 1980.

1916               The family settles in La-Tour-de-Peilz (Vevey), Switzerland.

1921-23         Igor studies piano with his father until the latter"s death in 1923.

1925               The thirteen-year-old Igor plays his piano suite Noces (Nuptials) to Alfred Cortot (himself a composer). Cortot arranges for its publication, and invites Markevitch to study with him.

1926-28         Studies piano with Cortot, and harmony and counterpoint with Nadia Boulanger at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris.

1929               Markevitch completes his diplomas at the Ecole Normale, commencing his Sinfonietta for Orchestra as part of his qualifying work. Now sixteen, he plays the Sinfonietta and Noces to Dyagilev, who soon after commissions two new works from him: a Piano Concerto, which receives a concert premiere sandwiched between ballets at the Covent Garden season of the Ballets Russes in July (with Markevitch himself as soloist); and L "Habit du Roi (The Emperor"s New Clothes), a ballet with scenario by Boris Kochno and designs by Picasso.

Only briefly before Dyagilev"s death on 19th August, Markevitch accompanies him to Baden-Baden for the world premiere of Hindemith and Brecht"s Lehrstück; and to Munich for performances of Tristan und Isolde and Die Zauberflöte conducted by Richard Strauss. With Dyagilev dead, L "Habit du Roi is abandoned, but some of its music is incorporated into Cantata with a new text specially written by Jean Cocteau.

1930               Roger Desormiere (who conducted Markevitch in his Piano Concerto the previous year) presents the enormously successful premiere of Cantata in Paris on 4th June.

In August, the publishing house of Schott (Mainz) accepts the Sinfonietta, the Piano Concerto and Cantata for publication.

8th December: World premiere in Paris of Concerto Grosso, reviewed as follows by no less than Darius Milhaud in L"Europe of 13th December:

Markevitch" s Concerto Grosso was one of those great rendings of the musical skies, a door suddenly opening on the future which allows an as yet unknown climate to enter. Igor Markevitch has a formidable technique and a truly unique invention.

1931               Composes the Serenade (January -March), perhaps his most "Stravinskian" work.

On 24th April, Hans Rosbaud conducts the German premieres of Concerto Grosso and Piano Concerto with the orchestra of Frankfurt Radio (the latter work with the composer as soloist). The world premiere of Re"bus in Paris on 15th December is hailed as a major triumph for the composer. Writing in the New York Times for 10th January, 1932, Henri Prunieres declares:

I am in no particular hurry to proclaim the genius of even the most gifted musicians. But in the case of Markevitch, after the new work he has just given us, doubt is no longer permissible... His music is not young. He is a little like Menuhin, who, when he was ten, played like a master and not like a child prodigy.

Hailed by many as the "Second Igor", Markevitch is now persona non grata with Stravinsky.

1933               After being asked to conduct the Dutch premiere of Rebus with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in February, Markevitch takes conducting lessons from Pierre Monteux (who directs the remainder of this concert). At this stage, he sees conducting as a task purely in relation to his own music.

The American premiere of Rebus follows in April, given by Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony.

On 26th June, Desormiere conducts the tumultuous premiere in Paris of L "Envol d"Icare (The Flight of Icarus), declared by Milhaud to be "a date in the evolution of music".

Le Corbusier and Cocteau, as well as many musicians of importance are among the audience.

1934               Psaume is greeted by a riot at its Italian premiere in Florence.

1934-36         Markevitch undertakes occasional conducting study with Hermann Scherchen in Switzerland; Scherchen becomes one of the principal advocates of his music.

1935               Substituting for Scherchen, Markevitch conducts the world premiere of his oratorio Le Paradis perdu (Paradise Lost) at Queen"s Hall, London on 20th December.

1936               Marries Kyra, daughter of Vaslav Nijinsky, in April. They decide to live in Corsier, Switzerland.

1937               Conducts L"Envol d"Icare at the Venice Biennale in September, remarking to fellow-composer Alex de Graeff: "I rejoice to hear it again, but I am nervous to conduct it for the first time... it is so terribly difficult." Stravinsky is in the audience, and retreats from his earlier hostility to Markevitch, expressing admiration for the score.

1938               Contriving a commission fee as a New Year"s Day gift, Piatigorsky requests a cello concerto.

The world premiere in Warsaw on January 21st of Le Nouvel Age marks a new triumph for the composer. On his way back from Poland, Markevitch visits Nijinsky for the first time in the sanatorium at Kreuzlingen; Kyra describes this meeting, and its effect on her father as "a marvel".

Performed at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in April, Le Nouvel Age is acclaimed by an audience of two thousand. In response to this performance, Leon Kochnitsky writes in the May issue of La Revue Musicale:

It is often said that a gulf exists between contemporary composers and the masses who are avid for music. For Markevitch this gulf does not exist; in that lies true genius.

In June, Markevitch begins a collaboration with Stravinsky"s one-time librettist C.F. Ramuz on La Taille de I"Homme, a "concert" for soprano and ensemble designed to last an entire evening. Owing to worsening conditions in Europe, and the end of his publishing contract in Germany, he supplements his income by giving lectures, piano recitals and radio broadcasts in Switzerland and abroad.

1939               Between the outbreak in September of World War II, and Christmas, completes fifty minutes (the first, and only "half" ever finished ) of La Taille de I"Homme.

1940               Visits Florence with Kyra, where he composes the "vocal symphony" Lorenzo II Magnifico on texts by Lorenzo himself. Markevitch has failed to comply with Swiss residency laws, and is thus technically stateless upon Mussolini"s declaration of war. He therefore remains in Italy, where Kyra teaches dance.

1941-47         The Markevitches live in a cottage provided by the art historian Bernard Berenson on his Villa I Tatti estate at Settignano. Dallapiccola is among his circle of friends. In October 1941, he completes Variations, Fugue and Envoi on a Theme of Händel, for piano, destined to be his last original composition.

1942               He falls seriously ill towards the end of a "hard, hard winter" (as he describes it to Alex de Graeff in a letter of 7th April, 1942). The composer senses himself to be "dead between two lives" during his recuperation in Fiesole; indeed, during the coming year he embarks on serious activity as conductor, giving a number of concerts in Florence.

1943               In October, Germany invades Italy. Markevitch renounces his conducting commitments to join the Partisans, becoming a member of the Committee of Liberation of the Italian Resistance. He recomposes L "Envol d"Icare as Icare, abandoning the quarter-tones of the original work and re-orchestrating in a less "astringent" manner.

1944               A further serious illness.

1946               During are turn visit to Switzerland, writes Made in Italy, a political study which meets with considerable success on its publication in Italy, France and Britain.

1947-77         Is naturalised as an Italian citizen in 1947. Following the dissolution of his first marriage, he marries Topazia Caetani. His international conducting career over this thirty-year period will take Markevitch to music directorships in Stockholm, Paris, Montreal, Madrid, Monte Carlo, Havana and Rome. He also holds conducting courses in Salzburg, Mexico, Moscow, Madrid, Monte Carlo and Weimar.

1978               Markevitch has effectively suppressed his music for 35 years when he receives an invitation from Herve Thys to conduct Icare and Le Paradis perdu for the Royal Philharmonic Society in Brussels. The concert is a success, and leads to over one hundred performances in fifteen countries during the following three years.

In connection with the Brussels performances (which Markevitch conducts himself), David Drew, then Director of New Music at Boosey and Hawkes, music publishers, London, makes contact with Markevitch. Progressively over the next few years, Drew persuades Markevitch to unearth his entire oeuvre, for which Boosey and Hawkes offer a new and comprehensive publication contract. Nevertheless, the present series of recordings, started eighteen years later, in December 1995, are the first recordings of all but a handful of works which are preserved from 1930"5 radio broadcasts, and a technically poor recording on 785 of L "Envol d"Icare dating from 1938.

1980               Publication by Gallimard of the composer"s autobiography, Etre et avoir ete (Being and having been). To some extent a roman a clef, the book reveals much even as it hides or obfuscates more.

In this year, Markevitch undertakes revision of some of his 1930s compositions, in preparation for a series of performances in Brussels.

1983               Only a short time after his first, triumphant visit to Kiev, his city of birth, Markevitch suddenly falls ill, dying in Antibes on 7th March.

 

[Chronology updated and revised from research by David Drew, Bernard Jacobson and David Pickett, originally published in Tempo vol. 133/134, London, September 1980.]

 

@ 1996 Christopher Lyndon-Gee

 

 

Le Nouvel Age

(Corsier / London, March -November 1937)

 

Originated in a collaboration with the American poet Edward James, Le Nouvel Age was intended to become a sort of opera-oratorio, a companion piece to Le Paradis perdu of three years before. The collaboration had not advanced far when James, taking advantage of the composer"s absence in Paris for a few days, attempted to seduce his wife, Kyra. Scandalised, Kyra demanded that James be stripped of his status as god-father to their son Vaslav, and banished from their lives. "My poor Nouvel Age remained afloat as best it could in the midst of these storms?, relates Markevitch. Completed in this overwrought emotional atmosphere ("the matter dragged on for several months"), Le Nouvel Age became perhaps Markevitch"s most intense, most tightly constructed and most enduring work.

 

The first performance by the Warsaw Philharmonic in January 1938 was the most spectacular success to date of Markevitch" s music, where a fellow-student from Nadia Boulanger"s class, Sigmund Mycielski, had amply "prepared the ground" , guaranteeing a full hall for the composer"s discussion of his music prior to the concert, and a well-informed, receptive public; but on this occasion, Markevitch for the first time conducted from memory the world premiere of his own music, to great acclaim - "despite my technical inexperience", the composer tells us.

 

Flushed with this success, and the promise of further engagements for the work in Florence and Belgium, on the return journey from Warsaw Markevitch joined his wife and son in a visit to Kyra"s father, the great Nijinsky at the sanatorium at Kreuzlingen, where the latter was to spend the rest of his life. Among the few lights in the shadows of the great dancer?s declining years were visits from his grandson and namesake Vaslav. "My son... could at times be left a1one with him. Nijinsky was charming with his little grandson."

 

Lacking James"s completed libretto, Le Nouvel Age turned into a symphonic poem whose sub-text, drafted by Markevitch himself, is provided in the composer"s autobiography:

 

"Ouverture: Une jeune colere fiere de son eclat prepare le Nouvel Age dans un paysage de colonnes d" air qu" eIle traverse avec grande difficulte mais un irresistible elan.

 

Esprit du Nouvel Age [Adagio]: On arrive

dans d" etranges cIartes fecondees par les grdces du Nouvel Age.

 

Hymne: Alors se fait entendre I?Hymne du

Nouvel Age. Il traverse un pays entierement nouveau ou les colonnes primitives

s?epanouissent comme des dmes libres et le saluent dans des eclats de douceur. Presence sous-jacente de la vulgarite."

"Overture: a "child of wrath", exultant in

the power of her pride, prepares for the

New Age in a landscape of columns of air across which she journeys with great

hardship but irresistible momentum.

The Spirit of the New Age [Adagio]: The observer finds himself in the midst

of mystic luminescences, fruit of the Graces who have given birth to the New Age.

Hymn: Thus is heard the Hymn of the

New Age. It traverses an utterly new environment, in which primitive columns flower into free spirits, saluting it in

brilliant explosions of tenderness.

Underlying all, however, is a vulgar

presence."

 

This reads like a secular gloss on the literary language of Messiaen, who indeed was writing his own earliest works at the same time (the mystic Le Banquet Cereste, for example). The words are Markevitch"s own, provided to Edward James as a synopsis for the intended libretto. A reading of some of James"s rather pedantic sonnets, with their constantly half-fulfilled, blocked metaphors and deadened images, leads this writer to the opinion that Markevitch"s vision would have been ill-realised by such a prosaic mind. The work succeeds ideally in its symphonic garb, without the distraction of text or scenario. Such a text could hardly be more evocative of that peculiar idealistic world of the mind inhabited between the wars by the painters and writers of Russian and Italian Futurism, and by the few composers who followed this aesthetic: Mossolov (Stal), Prokofiev (Le Pas d" Acier), Shostakovich (The Age of Gold), Polovinkin, Roslavets and so on. Marinetti"s Futurist Manifesto of 1909 proposed an art that would celebrate technology, dynamism and power - exactly those qualities that Markevitch, still excited by his 1930 encounter with Eisenstein, perceived as most admirable in the USSR of that time. "In general, [the work] evokes a world of machines", wrote the composer in 1980.

 

The Overture of Le Nouvel Age is nothing if not a paean to unsentimental strength, while the slow movement is a highly evocative "journey through a landscape", much of it suspended and "timeless". Moments like flutes in minor thirds (towards the end of this Adagio) recall the harmonic world of Szymanowski (also an habitue of Paris at this epoch). The virtuosic trumpet writing that decorates and dominates the Hymn (as secular and "vulgar" a music as befits the materialistic twentieth century) leads to an unforgettable cadence on an unresolved dominant seventh.

 

Sinfonietta in F

(Paris, November 1928 -February 1929)

 

On 27th December 1928, Markevitch was invited by Alexandrine Troussevitch to a performance at the Opera during the Ballets Russes" final Paris season. Though he had already seen the Ballets Russes the previous spring, in company with his fellow-student, the English composer Lennox Berkeley, this December evening was for ever imprinted on Markevitch"s memory as one of the crucial dates in his evolution as an artist. For it was in the intermission following a performance of Petrushka that Alexandrine, then a lowly assistant in the Dyagilev company, introduced the sixteen-year-old Igor Markevitch to his future father-in-law Vaslav Nijinsky, already but a "ghost" of his former self; to the great dancer Tamara Karsavina; to his future collaborators Serge Lifar and Alexandre Benois; but above all to his future mentor, Sergey Pavlovich Dyagilev.

 

Alexandrine had prepared the ground well; Dyagilev cast his eye over the youth with practised judgement:

So this is your protege, is it? He seems a little young to have been troubled to leave his nursery. Let him bring himself and his music to the Grand Hotel at five o"clock tomorrow.

 

Thus it was that (in due course, following a missed appointment - Dyagilev playing with the mouse) Markevitch came to show a completed movement of his Sinfonietta to the impresario who, thirty years earlier, had discovered Stravinsky, and whose ballet company had altered for ever the artistic landscape of Europe.

 

At his first formal" audience" with Dyagilev, the youthful Igor played a few non-descript songs to poems by Apollinaire, and a clutch of early piano pieces. "Yes, in two or three years...", began Dyagilev, looking at his watch. "But ... I would dearly love to play you my latest work which I wrote expressly for you", essayed the disappointed composer.

 

That single movement of the Sinfonietta, which was to become its Finale, transformed Dyagilev. He requested its repeat, then a third hearing. "I believe that the language of music has the ability to re-create the material world in the domain of sound", said the young Markevitch, trying to explain his creative impulses. A discussion lasting several hours ensued; a fascinated Dyagilev overlooked an appointment with Coco Chanel, who came to the Grand Hotel in search of him. "My dear Coco, here is a child who will have quite a few surprises for us", he said, introducing the by now somewhat overwhelmed composer. The next morning, a messenger delivered to Markevitch a score of Glinka"s Ruslan and Ludmilla, inscribed by Dyagilev: "Do not mistake this little work for a curiosity. It is one of the gospels of our art, whose every measure will enrich you."

 

Following this decisive encounter, Markevitch completed the first three movements of the Sinfonietta rapidly; indeed, the first movement in particular shows signs of haste -its ideas are worked out at a fairly simple level, almost always in the tonic key. Nevertheless, this is his first work of real assurance, distinctly not juvenilia. The polytonality of the Trio: Andantino section of the second movement, and throughout the slow movement, whilst somewhat reminiscent of Milhaud, is exploited with flair and individuality. The Finale that so impressed Dyagilev is full of syncopated rhythmic verve and a well judged sense of climax.

 

At the time of the composition of Sinfonietta, Markevitch was powerfully under the influence of his teacher, the great Nadia Boulanger, who had recently excited him with a lengthy analysis of Hindemith"s Concerto for Orchestra, Opus 38. Traits of the latter work were to emerge more strongly in the younger composers Cantata and Concerto Grosso in the following year, but the classicism and attention to form and technique in Sinfonietta are already noteworthy indicators of w hat was to come.

 

Cinema ? Ouverture

(London,1931)

In the period immediately following the death of Dyagilev in 1929, Paris was awash in choreographic projects. One of these was an idea conceived by Leonid Massine for a film starring Brigitte Helm, for which Markevitch would write a ballet score. He was ripe for such a suggestion, having in February 1930 spent much time in the company of his countryman Sergey Eisenstein, who was on a lecture-tour to London and Paris. Eisenstein, indeed, had invited Markevitch to accompany him back to the Soviet Union to write cinema scores, an invitation which the composer declined with great reluctance following the horrified reactions of his mother. Her irrational fears of the USSR apart, Markevitch saw clearly that the "seventh art form" of cinema embodied the most dynamic creative force in the USSR of the day.

 

Two movements survive from the ballet score for Massine"s uncompleted film: Grande Valse de Concert: Le Bleu Danube, a barely altered arrangement of Johann Strauss; and an original overture written in London in 1931, at first entitled Ouverture Symphonique. Owing to the abandonment of the film project, the latter, renamed in the score Cinema Overture lay unperformed until given its delayed world premiere in Harderwijk, Netherlands, on 30th November, 1995, by the Arnhem Philharmonic Orchestra under Christopher Lyndon-Gee, with subsequent performances in Arnhem and Nijmegen prior to the recording sessions. The abandoned film planned by Massine and Markevitch would itself have been called Le Bleu Danube; presumably, then centering its attention on the Waltz, as does the thematic material of the Overture. Perhaps the most surprising passage of this short Overture is a section that vividly recalls the Satie of Parade, suddenly introducing the rude absurdity of klaxons, sirens, and whistles knowingly combined with the "academicism" of a rather precise fugato. Nor was Markevitch immune from Stravinsky, whose taste for the evocative Eastern-European (peasant?) sound of the cymbalom is reflected in the Cinema-Ouverture in idiomatic writing around a simple six-note formula.

 

Following the recapitulation of the cymbalom theme is one of those passages that makes Markevitch"s music remarkable for its time, a five-fold repetition of a nine-measure ostinato employing the polyrhythmic explorations (already a feature of Concerto Grosso of the year before) that would become the composer"s trademark. Here, the ostinato matches a treading bass of four beats in the bar against eight in the horns, and a swirling counterpoint of twelve in strings and flute. Pitted against all of this, a determined trumpet melody of three beats to each measure, accented, however, on each second beat. This passage is destined to be reproduced almost exactly in Re"bus in the following year. The composer was nineteen, but all the essential components of his musical style are complete.

 

@ 1996 Christopher Lyndon-Gee

 

 
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