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Markevitch, Igor

Markevitch, Igor

Markevitch, Igor, greatly talented Russian-born Italian, later French composer and conductor; b. Kiev, July 27,1912; d. Antibes, France, March 7,1983. He was taken to Paris in his infancy; in 1916 the family settled in Vevey, Switzerland, which remained Markevitch’s home for the next decade. He began to study piano with his father, and subsequently took piano lessons with Paul Loyonnet; he also took academic courses at the Collège de Vevey. In 1925 he joined the piano class of Cortot in Paris at the École Normale de Musique, and studied harmony, counterpoint, and composition with Boulanger and orchestration with Rieti. He attracted the attention of Diaghilev, who commissioned him to write a piano concerto and also to collaborate with Boris Kochno on a ballet. Markevitch was soloist in his Piano Concerto at Covent Garden in London on July 15,1929. Diaghilev died on Aug. 19, 1929, and Markevitch interrupted his work on the ballet for him; he used the musical materials from it in his Cantate, which achieved an extraordinary success at its Paris premiere on June 4, 1930. On Dec. 8, 1930, his Concerto Grosso was performed for the first time in Paris with even greater acclaim. Finally, his ballet Rébus was produced in Paris on Dec. 15, 1931, to enthusiastic press reviews. Markevitch was hailed, only half- facetiously, as “Igor II” (the first Igor being, of course, Stravinsky). His ballet L’Envol d’Icare was premiered in Paris on June 26,1933, prompting Milhaud to opine that the occasion would probably “mark a date in the evolution of music. But swift as was Markevitch’s Icarus-like ascent as a composer, even more precipitous was his decline. He began to be sharply criticized for his penchant toward unrelieved dissonance. When he conducted the premiere of his oratorio Le Paradis perdu (London, Dec. 20, 1935), it was roundly condemned for sins of dissonance. Although he continued to compose, Markevitch turned his attention more and more to conducting. He made his professional conducting debut with the Concertgebouw Orch. of Amsterdam in 1930. In 1934–35 he took conducting lessons in Switzerland with Scherchen. During World War II, he was in Italy; after the war, he devoted himself to conducting. He conducted in Stockholm (1952–55). He made his U.S. debut as a guest conductor with the Boston Sym. Orch. (1955). Markevitch was then conductor of the Montreal Sym. Orch. (1957–61), the Havana Phil. (1957–58), and the Lamoureux Orch. in Paris (1957–62). He was founder-conductor of the Spanish Radio and Television Sym. Orch. (1965); then conducted the U.S.S.R. State Sym. Orch. in Moscow (1965), the Monte Carlo Orch. (1967–72), and the orch. of the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome (1973–75). He also gave master classes in conducting in various European music centers. In 1947 he became a naturalized Italian citizen. He became a naturalized French citizen in 1982. Markevitch wrote Introduction à la musique (Paris, 1940), Made in Italy (London, 1949), and Point d’orgue (Paris, 1959). In addition to the Russian repertoire, he exhibited special affinity for the works of Stravinsky, Bartok, and other 20th-century composers.

Works

dramatic: ballet: Rébus (Paris, Dec. 15, 1931); L’Envol d’Icare (Paris, June 16, 1933; also for Piano as La Mort d’Icare). orch.: Sinfonista (Brussels, Nov. 30, 1929); Piano Concerto (London, July 15, 1929, composer soloist); Concerto Grosso (Paris, Dec. 8, 1930); Ouverture symphonique (1931); Hymnes (Paris, June 26, 1933, composer conducting); Petite suite d’après Schumann (1933); Hymne à la mort for Chamber Orch. (1936); Cantique d’amour for Chamber Orch. (Rome, May 14, 1937); Le Nouvel Age, sinfonia concertante (1937; Warsaw, Jan. 21,1938, composer conducting); Le Bleu Danube for Chamber Orch. (Florence, May 24,1946, composer conducting). chamber:Serenade for Violin, Clarinet, and Bassoon (Wiesbaden, Aug. 5, 1931); Partita (Paris, May 13, 1932); Galop for 8 Players (1932); Duo for Flute and Bassoon (1939). piano:Noces, suite (1925); La Mort d’Icare (1933; also as the ballet L’Envol d’Icare); Stefan le poète (1939–40); Variations, Fugue and Envoi on a Theme of Handel (Rome, Dec. 14, 1941). vocal: Cantate, after Jean Cocteau (Paris, June 4, 1930); Psaume for Soprano and Chamber Orch. (Amsterdam, Dec. 3, 1933, composer conducting); Le Paradis perdu, oratorio, after Milton (London, Dec. 20, 1935, composer conducting); 3 poèmes for Voice and Piano (1935); La Taille de l’homme for Soprano and 12 Instruments (1939; unfinished; 1st perf. as Oraison musicale, Maastricht, Feb. 7, 1982); Lorenzo il magnifico, sinfonia concer-tante for Soprano and Orch. (1940; Florence, Jan. 12,1941); Inno della liberazione nazionale, songs for the Italian underground resistance (1943–44).

Bibliography

B. Gavoty, I. M.(Geneva, 1954); J. Heinzelmann, 7. M. (Bonn, 1982).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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