Violinist Alexander Markov performs in Tupelo

Alexander Markov wielded his “traditional violin gem”, a 1970 Sergio Peresson, as a willing channel for the concertos that flow through his fingers hundreds of times in dozens of places

Alexander Markov began playing the violin in professional orchestras while in elementary school and later moved to New York, where he first performed at Carnegie Hall at age 16. . Photo courtesy of Alexander Markov

around the world, from Manhattan and Philadelphia to Berlin, London and Turkey. The Russian-born violinist has performed solo for some of the world’s most famous orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Orchester de Paris, Orchester symphonique de Montréal, Orchester du Festival de Budapest and the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra.

He performed under the direction of violins such as Lorin Maazel, Franz Welser-Möst and Iván Fischer and shared the stage with classical luminaries such as Martha Argerich for decades.

Now he’s heading to Mississippi.

On February 26, the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra welcomes Markov to Tupelo, Mississippi, where he will perform at the Link Center Concert Hall (1800 West Main St., Tupelo) for his seventh concert with the organization, “Magnificent Markov”. During the show, the soloist will perform a series of works that showcase the range of expression of the violin in a single program without intermission.

These arrangements include Mozart’s “Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, K. 492”, “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso in A minor, Op. 28″, the “Symphony No. 1 in D major, classical, op. 25”, excerpts from Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, Jules Massenet’s “Méditation de Thaïs” and “Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), op. 20.”

Violinist Albert Markov (left) still performs with his son, Alexander (right), who performs in Tupelo, Mississippi on February 26, 2022. Photo courtesy of Alexander Markov

A musical heritage

Born in Moscow to world-class concert violinists Albert and Marina Markov, Alexander Markov has studied the violin most of his life, starting at age 5 and playing alongside his father. By the age of 8, Markov was already performing as a soloist with orchestras and in double violin concertos with Albert. The father-son team still performs together in a duo repertoire in concert halls around the world.

In the late 1970s, the Markovs emigrated to the United States where Alexander attended high school. At 16, he made his New York debut at Carnegie Hall and performed under Christoph Eschenbach, who conducted the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra at Avery Fisher Hall. The budding virtuoso went on to win a gold medal at the Paganini International Violin Competition, earn an Avery Fisher Career Fellowship in 1987, and record with Erato Records. Markov gained popularity in classical music circles for his rendition of Paganini’s 24 Caprice for solo violin.

Sir Yehudi Menuhin, renowned American-born violinist and conductor, wrote: “He is without doubt one of the most brilliant and musical violinists. … Alexander Markov will certainly leave his mark on world music lovers and in the annals of violin virtuosos.

Under his father’s tutelage and influence, classical music became his first love, but Markov then heard rock ‘n’ roll and has also nurtured his inner rock star ever since. “I absolutely fell in love with rock,” says Markov. “Unlike many concert musicians who want to play a known classical work, I want to create and compose my own music. I didn’t just want to pick up other people’s music; I want to improvise and mix rock and classical genres.

Markov became fascinated with the haunting melodies created by guitarists such as Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen. Having found a lifelong calling, the composer sought out the tools he needed to shape it properly.

“I noticed how musically similar the violin and the guitar were, and decided to create something fresh and exciting,” he told the Mississippi Free Press.

Fellow musician James V. Remington designed Markov a six-string electric violin (violins normally have four strings: E, A, D, and G) to add depth to the lower register. Barry Lipman then created the instrument from Remington’s designs, tweaking the specifications to exactly match Markov’s needs and plating the instrument in 24-karat gold to add warmth to the sound.

“It looks gorgeous, but I also wanted it to look the part,” Markov said with a laugh.

The composer calls this fusion of classical music and rock ‘Rock Concerto’ and he performed his American debut of the newly coined genre at Carnegie Hall in 2010, with friend and concertmaster Steven Byess leading the event.

Feel at home in Tupelo

Byess, Music Director of the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, has known Markov for more than 20 years. During a rehearsal early in their relationship, Markov’s mastery of his craft managed to knock Byess into silence.

Alexander Markov often uses his gold-plated six-string electric violin when performing “Rock Concerto”, as pictured. Photo courtesy of Alexander Markov

“I asked Alexander, as a conductor often does, what concertos he could prepare for the next performance,” Byess said. “He looked at me for a few seconds and without the slightest irony – and with the greatest humility – he replied: ‘All.’ He is superhuman. I watch the effortless momentum, its virtuosity, grace and musicality, and wonder, “How does he do all this on a violin?”

Markov’s fervor for musicality reinforced his respect for the violinist.

“Alexander is the kind of performer who is passionate about his music and shares it with young people,” he said. “He hangs out with me at local schools at 8 a.m., when most musicians are still sound asleep, and plays his violin perfectly during the first assembly period, with no warm-up.”

This esteem is reciprocated, as Markov, despite being a world traveler, holds Tupelo and the OCPN close to his heart.

“It’s like a homecoming for me,” he says. “Steven (Byess) is at the very top of the greatest conductors in the world. He knows how to make an ensemble, and he is not only a master of tempo, but he also brings the musical vision of the soloist to the orchestra, which is very rare.

With good reason, the NMSO is a rarity among orchestras, as the majority of its members live outside of Tupelo. Musicians come to play from Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, and areas of Mississippi beyond Tupelo. Byess believes this model allows his orchestra to be more creative, flexible and spontaneous, expanding and condensing its roster as the music changes rather than only offering pieces that require full orchestras.

Violinist and composer Alexander Markov and North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra Music Director Steven Byess have known and worked together for over 20 years now. Photo courtesy of Alexander Markov

“I get so excited every time I set foot in Tupelo,” enthused Byess, who currently lives in Los Angeles and goes to shows. “We work together so well. We bring in world-class soloists, and it elevates everything we do.

Byess is also Music Director of the Portland Columbia Symphony Orchestra in Oregon and the Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra. He is the Associate Music Director of the Ohio Light Opera, where he has conducted a repertoire ranging from well-known and little-known operas and operettas to best-selling classic American musical theater works. Walt Disney World Entertainment chose Byess to lead the 2000 NFL E*TRADE Superbowl Halftime show, where he performed to a TV audience of more than 88 million fans.

OCPN rehearses together while using COVID safety protocols before each performance, and some musicians use special masks with slits to play their instruments.

Close-up of a man conducting an orchestra
Steven Byess is musical director of three orchestras in the United States and associate musical director of another. He conducts many performances of the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. Photo by JA Huddleston

Upcoming NMSO Programs

Always a strong believer in collaboration, Byess creates unique programs that span cultural, racial and age backgrounds. “For our 50th season this year, we have several really amazing shows,” he says. On March 26, the symphony will partner with the Japan-America Society of Mississippi to present “Radiant Beauty” in which pianist Miki Sawada will perform Tchaikovsky’s Concerto No. 1 and Brahms’ Symphony No. 2 as part of the North Mississippi Cherry Blossom Festival.

On April 30, NMSO features former NMSO Concertmaster Er-Gene Kahng, who will perform the newly discovered Violin Concerto No. 2 by Arkansas-born composer Florence Beatrice Price, the first African-American woman to be recognized as a composer. symphony and the first to have a composition played by a large orchestra. The program also includes the Itawamba Community College Chorus, Northeast Mississippi Community College Chorus, and NMSO Children’s Chorus.

In addition to “Magnificent Markov,” the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra will perform three other shows this season. Photo by Peter Hamby

The season ends on May 21 with “Exquisite Musical Landscapes”. Grammy Award-winning Jason Vieaux returns to guitar for his third appearance with the NMSO to perform Spanish composer Joaqun Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. The orchestra is featured in three musical masterpieces, two by French and Russian composers illustrating the exotic culture of Spain, and a beautiful new work by Australian composer Maria Grenfell which is a musical evocation of the Tasmanian landscape. This show was originally scheduled for January 2022 but was postponed due to COVID concerns.

“Magnificent Markov” begins at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 26, 2022 at the Link Center Concert Hall (1800 West Main St., Tupelo). General Admission is $30, and students can present a valid student ID to participate for $10. Masks are mandatory. For more information on the OCPN, visit To visit to learn more about the featured artist.

Comments are closed.