A treasurable Markevitch reissue
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 05/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At his best Igor Markevitch was an inspired conductor, and here he is giving an incandescent reading of the Beethoven Fifth with the Lamoureux Orchestra of Paris, with which he was long aassociated. It dates from 1960, as do the various overtures. One usually doesn't associate Beethoven with Paris, and the orchestral sound here isn't remotely German (the piping oboe and woodsy bassoon are a dead giveaway), but Markevitch transcends all limitations in a performance as galvanic as the classic Erich Kleiber's but with more flexibility and more musical ideas. The stereo recording is good, if a bit shrill, and the pirate label Living Stage has done no remastering: they just ut on the LP and recorded it. Luckily, it's not a worn LP so the experience has few drawbacks sonically except for inner-groove distoriton at the veyr end. Anyone who prefers Betethoven toward the Toscanini-Szell end of the spectrum will be delighted.
The other selections all are duplicates of DG's commeemorative 9-CD box set, where they can be found in better sound. The engineering for the overtures (stereo, dating 1957-58) is closer, warmer, and from an LP that's in better shape. I gave these performances a fairly grudging review on DG but actually like them quite a lot now. My objection to the Lamoureux's thin Gallic sound doesn't seem relevant in light of Markevitch's musicality.
The Wagner selections (mono, 1954) also appear in the DG box set. I can only repeat my remarks: The Berlin Phil. doesn't sound like the world-class orchestra it would become once again under Karajan, but these excerpts are well played and recorded for their time. Markevitch was a modernist in Wagner, favoring fast tempos and eschewing expressive profundities. The music can take it, but one is always aware that something deeper is necessary. An odd-man-out disc but enjoyable. Living stage gives us a fairly murky but listenable copy of the original LP.
Everyt;hing here is recommendable, but if you already own the DG set, I still urge you to buy the remarkable Beethoven Fifth on this CD.