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Naxos 8.572156 - TT 56 mins

This, shame be, is my first CD for consideration of music by composer Igor Markevitch (1912-83). Well known UK as a fine conductor, how many of us had heard his own music in his concerts or anyone else's?

It is a good example of the lotteries of fortune, and for the media, one of selecting for reviewing consideration a reasonably small number of the monthly releases of a distrubutor as large as Select - and even of the generous output of their flagship label, Naxos.

With this preamble, an assertion that this is an important - though flawed - disc, and that there is catching up to be done!

It seems that this precocious composer, a protege of Diaghilev and widely admired in his younger days, switched (largely for financial need) to conducting and that he didn't mix the two.

Le Taille de l'Homme (1939), with a text by Ramuz, is an uncompleted torso of an orchestral cantata for soprano, 10 solo instrumentalists and string orchestra. The orchestral music - tracks 1, 3 & 5 - is magnificently original, arresting and rewarding to hear more than once. It is "aggressively individual" and not neo-classical. There is a snag however. The alternate tracks have elaborate French texts (with English translations supplied, The Measure of Man), but they are very hard to follow whilst listening, mainly due to Lucy Shelton's poor diction as recorded here, with tone recessed by the recording. I wondered if they might not go equally well as a spoken narration? However, the three orchestral movements make a fine sequence on their own, worth the modest price of the disc, I'd say.

There's a lot of catching up to do* with Markevitch, who should not be confused with those conductors who composed a bit (Furtwangler,Klemperer, Weingartner etc); he was a dedicated composer in his younger years, one who eschewed self promotion.

I must confess too that conductor Christopher Lyndon-Gee, featured in Naxos's A to Z of Conductors, also had not come into my radar, and I don't remember ever seeing him conduct. His CV, a whole page single paragraph which fills the back of the booklet, leaves no doubt that he too is a man of parts, not to be overlooked.

This is the 6th of seven discs (originally released on Marco Polo) and perhaps Naxos will consider putting them together in a slip case box when all is complete? That might serve to make an impact which, it seems, has so far escaped this brave and rewarding enterprise?

Peter Grahame Woolf

Details of Markevitch Vol. 5

See Markevitch conducting Mozart

Markevitch at Covent Garden in 1954