Alexander Markov Excels with Vieuxtemps Violin Works

Henri Vieuxtemps was one of the best — and most influential — violin virtuosos of the mid-19th Century. His playing even impressed Paganini. Not surprisingly, most of Vieuxtemps’ compositions are for the violin. And most popular is his violin concertos. 

This release presents some of his shorter works for violin and orchestra. The variety is refreshing — as is the playing. Vieuxtemps may have been a ferocious player, but he wasn’t a showboater. For Vieuxtemps, the technique was always in service to the melody. 

Alexander Markov has that same approach. The technique is there, but he doesn’t call attention to it. Rather, Markov plays with a clear, singing tone. Double stops are carefully voiced. Lightning-fast runs outline melodic arcs. Extremely high notes aren’t there for show — they’re the logical destination of the phrase. 

The works chosen showcase both Vieuxtemps as violinist and composer. The two sets of variations demonstrate his musical imagination. As the variations develop, he doesn’t just pile on runs. (Although there are plenty of them.) Rather, the melodies are transformed and reharmonized. These explorations provide fascinating insights into the original material.

When Vieuxtemps died in 1881, he left his eighth violin concerto unfinished. Only the first movement was completed, and even that was in short score. This release presents a realization of that movement, orchestrated by Christoph Baumgarten. Markov himself provides the cadence.

It’s a tantalizing glimpse at what might have been. Vieuxtemps experimented with the concerto form. This torso suggests Vieuxtemps was moving towards something new.

Henri Vieuxtemps: Fantasie in E major ‘La Sentimentale’
Variations on a Theme from Bellini’s Norma; Violin Concerto No. 8 (unfinished); Variations on a Theme from Beethoven’s Romance No. 1
Alexander Markov, Violin
Thüringen Philharmonie Gotha-Eisenach: Markus Huber, conductor

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