Lev Markiz began his career as a virtuoso violinist, but like many talented soloists, gradually turned toward conducting. In both roles he has enjoyed much success, though he will likely be remembered as a conductor first. He was a friend of both Shostakovich and Schnittke, two composers with whose music he is closely identified. Markiz' choice of repertory, however, extends well beyond the sphere occupied by these two icons, as it takes in the disparate likes of Mozart, Bloch, Mendelssohn, Elgar, Schumann, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and many others. Markiz has focused largely on music for chamber orchestras (often, too, in works scored for strings only) and has made nearly 100 recordings over the years. Many of these were first issued on the Russian label Melodiya, though since 1981 his recordings have appeared on BIS, Globe, Brilliant Classics, and others.
Markiz was born in Moscow. His first advanced studies were at the Moscow Conservatory, where his most important teachers were pianist Maria Yudina, who instructed him in chamber music performance, and Yuri Yankelevich, who taught him on violin. Markiz later studied conducting with Kiril Kondrashin.
From 1955 to 1964 Markiz served as concertmaster for the Moscow Chamber Orchestra. After his departure from this post he founded his own ensemble, the Moscow Soloists. This spirited Markiz-led group quickly drew attention at home and abroad, and around 70 recordings of theirs would be issued over the next decade and a half on the Melodiya label in considerably varied repertory.
In 1981 Markiz emigrated to the Netherlands, where he has since lived. He immediately began to freelance as a conductor with a number of orchestras there, elsewhere in Europe, and in Canada and Israel. In 1988 he was appointed principal conductor of the Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam, another group with whom he made a number of recordings. Among their more important recording projects was a 1993 complete set of the Mendelssohn string symphonies on the BIS label.
In 1997 Markiz left his post with the Nieuw Sinfonietta Amsterdam, but continued to conduct and record with the group. That same year he accepted the appointment of chief conductor of the Chamber Orchestra of Geneva. In the new century Markiz was active as a guest conductor throughout the Netherlands, Europe, and overseas. Among Markiz's later recordings is a 2004 release on Challenge Classics of Shostakovich's chamber symphonies.