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Phenomenon of violinist Markov

Turkish Daily News

Feb 20 2005

Phenomenon of violinist Markov

From My Notebook


Despite his relative youth, Alexander Markov already has a noteworthy international reputation as a remarkable violin virtuoso, and there is no doubt he will leave his musical mark on the 21st century. In two words, he is “phenomenal and sensational,” with a complete mastery of his instrument. In fact, it is much more than mere violin playing when a violin and his fingers become one with his body and mind.

I was told that he has played in Ankara before, but this was the first time I had heard him, and his rendition of Aram Katchaturian’s “Violin Concerto” with the Presidential Symphony Orchestra (CSO) conducted by Alexander Rahbari left me and the whole audience spellbound.

Markov, the son of a concert violinist father, was born in the Moscow of the old U.S.S.R. He received an invitation at the age of 14 to train under the legendary Jasha Heifetz and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1982, becoming a U.S. citizen in the process. He has played with all the great orchestras and conductors of our time in venues such as New York’s Avery Fisher and Carnegie halls, to name just two. Not only is he an extraordinary virtuoso but alos a most congenial and modest person, thanking the audience in Turkish with “Teºekkür ederim” followed by an unexpected “Eyvallah”
that was received with much appreciation.

Katchaturian’s “Violin Concerto,” to my mind, is one of the most brilliant compositions in romantic music literature, and its moving rendition roused the audience to its feet with a full house on the evening of Feb. 11. Katchaturian (1903-1978) started writing his concerto in 1938, completed it during the war in 1940 and dedicated it to the great David Oistrakh. The concerto is based on Armenian and Caucasian folk melodies and is lyrical and melodic, to say nothing of sentimental. There is deep sadness in the repetition of the touching themes, with the violin omnipresent throughout the three movements and in the whirlwind finale.

The concert had started with Michael Ivanovich Glinka’s (1804-1857) overture to his ballet, `Ruslan and Ludmilla,’ which is based on a poem by Pushkin and is one of the most frequently produced popular works in Russian ballet tradition. It was a rousing beginning to the evening under Rahbari, a welcome conductor who frequently visits Ankara.

The final work was Igor Stravinsky’s(1882-1971) “Petrushka,” again under Rahbari’s baton and played with tremendous sonority in all its colorful contrasting details. The subject of the ballet is simple:

Two men fall in love with the same woman. Petrushka symbolizes the ordinary and poor people and is killed at the end of the ballet. It is most difficult to do justice to this modern work, and it was played with tremendous zest and great gusto by the CSO with the adroit interpretation of Alexander Rahbari.

To relate a story about Stravinsky, it was during the mid-’50s that, to my utter amazement, I saw Stravinsky in the lobby of the Istanbul Hilton reading a newspaper. I subsequently found out that he was traveling under a false name to escape the attention of the Turkish media. Then a few years later, in 1960, he came to London to conduct his “Oedipus Rex” at an unusual late-evening concert at the Festival Hall with Jean Cocteau reading the text. As well as being a music lover, I was also an ardent autograph collector in those days and, as such. I rushed with my late friend Ömer Umar to the Green Room at the end of his historic concert at around 1:00 a.m. A sizeable crowd of other music enthusiasts was also waiting for him to appear. When he finally did, he was hurriedly bundled into a spacious elevator. As it happened, I was the only one of the crowd who managed to muscle his way in. His tall, well-built wife Vera pushed me against the wall of the elevator and with her index finger pressed into my chest she protected her husband from my intrusive presence.

It was rather needless, since my hands were full with a copy of the record of “Oedipus Rex,” the concert program and his autobiography.

Stravinsky, meanwhile, was beating the other wall of the lift with his hands shouting, “This autograph business is a dangerous disease.”

When a minute or two later the elevator doors opened, the crowd had collectively rushed upstairs and were enviously shouting, `He got it, he got it!’ Actually, I hadn’t got his autograph but am rewarded instead with a real-life Stravinsky anecdote, which I shall always remember.

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