Darien rock violinist plays for New Canaan students
When international violin virtuoso Alexander Markov plays the violin using a bouncing-the-bow technique, every note is succinctly hit. New Canaan High School recently students listened with rapt attention as he demonstrated nimble fingering and filled the school's all-purpose room with one of Bach's sonatas. It was when Markov pulled out his custom-made, six-string, gold electric violin that the young people gasped out loud.
Playing an excerpt from "The Rock Concerto," an original composition he co-wrote with James V. Remington, Markov regaled the spellbound audience with amplified riffs delivering a rock and roll sound. On cue, band and orchestra teacher Leo Ficks turned off the lights and Markov finished the selection in the dark, using a light-up violin bow.
Markov is visiting local high schools this month to promote his Rock Concerto concert which takes place Friday, April 1, at the Norwalk Concert Hall. The first half of the recital is comprised of classical masterpieces. However, Markov will be joined onstage for the second act's Rock Concerto with professional musicians who have toured with rock and roll legends such as The Rolling Stones and David Bowie.
Markov played to a sold out crowd at Carnegie Hall when he debuted the Rock Concerto in New York last October.
"By pushing the boundaries, Alex is appealing to young people and to their parents," Darren Sussman, one of the show's producers, said.
Fairfield County's youth are clearly enamored with Markov's sounds.
Catherine Harris, 15, a violinist, said, "He inspired me."
Tom Picard, 15, said that he appreciated the way Markov contrasted the baroque selections with the rock music. Tom said he played the violin from third through eighth grade and then he switched to the viola. When asked if he was familiar with the bow bouncing technique, he replied affirmatively. Laughing, he added, "I could do it -- but not nearly as well as he does!"
Dressed in black, with long light brown hair, Markov resembles a rock star more than a stereotypic symphony member. However, his roots are grounded firmly in classical music. From a young age, Markov played in national and international orchestras led by renowned conductors. His outstanding technique was learned from his father, professional concert violinist Albert Markov. Born in Moscow, the family immigrated to the United States where they settled in Darien and Markov received his citizenship in 1982.
Albert Markov will join his son onstage in Norwalk. His mother may possibly make a surprise appearance. Although Markov now lives in Manhattan, in an apartment above Carnegie Hall, his parents reside locally in Rowayton.
Anna said, "Playing for him is like performing because you have to memorize everything."
She plans to continue to study with him soon.
Markov said his love for rock music was fostered during his time spent at Darien High School. Coming out of the "Cold War" in Europe, where schools were strict and music was more conventional, Markov took great delight in America's "girls and rock and roll."
"And, nothing has been the same," he said, jokingly. "I wanted to be part of it."
On a serious note, Markov told the young people he was drawn to rock music's expressive style. He especially admired musicians who were writing and arranging their own material. Looking to do something "fresh and exciting," Markov started to work on his Rock Concerto.
"It's about balance," Markov said. "Classic music is part of my roots but I had to do something different."
Markov opened the student's recital with "Sonata 1 in G Minor" by Bach, followed by Paganini's "Caprice No. 1." He said he spent an entire summer learning all of Paganini's "Caprices" by heart.
Alyssa Thompson, 16, a violinist, enjoyed hearing Markov's eclectic musical interests.
"He has a unique and different taste in music, which is so nice because so many musicians are set in their ways," she said.
Although Alyssa admitted to having an affinity for classical music, she thought it was interesting to see his "take" on rock music.
"Because of the nature of today's world, for most musicians you have to be able to play different styles," Ficks said.
For this reason, Ficks has arranged an orchestration of a Led Zeppelin tune and a medley of Rush music for the students' end-of-the-year concert. "We'll be bringing in some drums, too," Ficks said.
Ficks praised Markov for reaching out to Connecticut's young people by visiting the schools and performing the Rock Concerto. He pointed out that so many orchestras nationwide are trying to attract and maintain audiences. In order to thrive, "orchestras need to embrace concerts like the one you're doing," Ficks added.
Along with mixing up the musical genres, Markov also welcomes the opportunity to bring different generations together. "There's something for everyone at the Rock Concerto," he said.
Noting that one of his goals was to create music that could be enjoyed by all ages, Markov is also excited to perform close to his hometown.
"I want to give thanks to the community that supported me from the beginning," Markov said. "I love being able to do this in Fairfield County."
For more information and to reserve tickets, visit www.rockconcerto.com or call 212-352-3101. For a 10 percent savings, use the code "school 10." Ticket prices start at $29.