TCHAIKOVSKY:  Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32.  MUSSORGSKY:  Songs:  "Lullay," "The Magpie," "Night," Where Art Thou, Little Star?," The Ragamuffin," "On the Dnieper."  STRAVINSKY:  Le Sacre du printemps.
Galina Vishkevskaya, soprano/London Symphony Orch/Igor Markevitch, cond.
BBC LEGENDS BBCL 4053 (F) (ADD) TT:  74:44

STRAVINSKY:  Le Sacre du printemps.  Two recordings:  November 1951 (mono) and 1959 (stereo).
Philharmonia Orch/Igor Markevich, cond.


BBC Legends' CD is a fascinating document of an entire concert presented in Usher Hall at the Edinburgh Festival August 26, 1962, affording us the opportunity to hear Igor Markevitch  (1912-1983) conducting two of his showpieces as well as leading  the world premiere of his own orchestral accompaniments for six songs by Mussorgsky.

Tchaikovsky figured prominently in Markevitch's repertory; in the early '60s he recorded all of the symphonies and many other works for Philips with the London Symphony, still highly regarded today, although all are not generally available—an oversight that Philips may soon rectify.  Markevitch, who developed hearing problems as early as 1962, suffered from this affliction for the remainder of his life. This affliction started about the time of this concert, but from these performances one would never suspect there was any impairment. This Francesca is a vivid trip through Hades, this Rite a demonic, lean-textured interpretation of great barbarism. Stravinsky's masterpiece was always a specialty of Markevitch's. He conducted it often during his early years and many orchestras gave their first performance of it with him on the podium.  

This live performance has been circulating for many years via copies from a BBC LP transcription. In this CD issue, directly from the master tapes, it sounds better than ever. Soprano Galina Vishnevskaya at the time of this concert was in her prime with only a touch of splattiness in loud high notes.  The six Mussorgsky songs are gems in these sensitive orchestrations by Markevich.  The soprano's bold approach is highly  appropriate for "The Magpie" and "The Ragamuffin."  She is able to scale her voice down  for the gentle serenity of "Star Tell Me."

Markevitch's (Testament spells his name minus the "t") 1952 mono recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra for HMV created much interest. It was perhaps the first recording of Sacre in sound that captured the composer's vivid orchestration.  In 1959 when Otto Klemperer cancelled a recording session, Markevitch was called in on short notice to re-record Sacre in stereo, also with the Philharmonia—after the producers were able to find required extra players on such short notice. Both recordings can be found in superb transfers on Testament (SBT 1076).  The latter  (stereo) recording once was available in an EMI twin-CD Markevitch compilation listed as mono although obviously in stereo (EMI 62647), long out-of-print.  The second recording is over-all about two minutes faster, mostly in the second part, Le Sacrifice.  Now Testament gives us the opportunity to hear both, side by side. NOTE: It seems this Testament CD has been discontinued (July 2003)

Another Markevitch Sacre listed in Schwann/Opus is a live performance from June 1982 recorded live with the Suisse Romande Orchestra (Cascavelle VEL 2004).  The radio sound is quite good; however, orchestral playing is sometimes ragged.  Primary interest in this CD is the coupling:  Markevitch's Psaume for soprano, a chorus of six sopranos, and orchestra.

The BBC Legends and Testament CDs are highly recommended.

R.E.B. (Dec. 2000)