I have a few of Igor Marevitch's recordings that I highly regard, so when I saw this newly released disc from DG I had to hear it. Markevitch has, for me, been a legendary conductor whose name on a disc has meant that the recording would be well-performed and of high interest. Igor Markevitch studied conducting with Pierre Monteux and Herman Scherchen, having first been a composer of some renown. Markevitch succeeded Jean Martinon as conductor of the Orchestre Lamoureaux in 1957.
The music on the CD is a fairly diverse selection of Russian music. Markevitch managed to make the French orchestra play as if they were Russians, which is especially clear in the music on this disc. The first item is Rimsky-Korsakov's suite from The Golden Cockerel, which receives a beautifully colored performance and is followed by an equally loving performance of Overture from the opera May Night. The performance of Tchaikovsky's Francesca da Rimini is among the most powerful I have heard. The quote from Henry Fogel in the booklet as "rip-roaring" is a perfect description.
I found the performance of Borodin's In the Steps of Central Asia beautifully performed with magical coloring from the orchestra. I did not find it at all shrill or unlistenable, rather the Orchestre Lamoureaux were very sensitive in playing the piece with Markevitch providing an ideal tempo, relishing the beauty of the piece. The performance of Ruslan and Lyudmilia is energetic and well-played. The sound is dated but the performance is far from unlistenable. The most interesting piece, for me, is From the Apocalypse (1910-12) by Anatoly Liadov. It was a refreshing change from the ubiquitous Kikmora, Baba Yaga and Enchanted Lake and is a colorful and dramatic work that has quite an abrupt ending. The music is rooted in a Russian legend and was part of a larger work that the composer typically was going to add a final section to but died before he could compose it.
In sum, this is a fantastic disc of Russian music that is a great addition to a collection for these performances, even if you already have them recorded by another orchestra.