With the phenomenal success of Korngold renewed from circa 1974 onwards and
the less sustained revival of interest in Zemlinsky and Goldschmidt it was
only a matter of time before attention turned to Joseph Marx.
Marx, a late-romantic Austrian, has made some peripheral headway. His Romantic
Piano Concerto was taken up by Jorge Bolet and broadcast with the NYPO under
Mehta! Hyperion have recorded the work and coupled it with Korngold. FY-Solstice
have a 2 CD set of his chamber music and songs. Pavane have recorded his
hour-long first violin sonata (and threaten to record his other works for
violin and piano including the much more compact Frühlingsonate). Songs
have appeared on Preiser and there is a complete recital on Etcetera. The
Pavane, Etcetera and Hyperion have all been reviewed on this site.
The present disc, stylishly and comprehensive done by ASV, is another major
step forward for Marx. There are absolutely no complaints. The skilful and
tenderly exquisite performances generate fantasy and emotional warmth in
equal measure. Witchery is seethingly alive in the scherzo of the Chromatico
which is suggestive of Britten (Simple Symphony) and even Stravinsky's
Firebird. The highly flavoured tonal complexity of these web-woven
scores is not always easy but is well worth the effort. You can tap instantly
into the rewarding strata by listening to the second movement of Chromatico.
Marx is smilingly gracious in the finale of Chromatico - subtly weaving in
a strand of the most touching nostalgia among that blazing confidence.
Modo Classico presents a simpler face with direct expression uncloaked by
density of texture. The notes mention the music of Palestrina and di Lasso
but for me Haydn and Mozart predominate. Traces of the medieval influence
can be discerned in the adagio. Another undeniable voice (in the stunning
adagio is that of Max Reger whose string quartet and piano quartet
andantes are usually major emotional edifices. After a beamingly indulgent
minuet teetering on (never falling over) the edge of schmaltz we come to
a poco presto with some dazzling musical ideas and just a touch of the complexity
which abounds in the Chromatico. The work was redone for string orchestra
In Antico, once again, Haydn and Mozart are the influences. This is no desiccated
pastiche. Marx (and the Lyric Quartet) uses Classical era ideas but presents
them with a micron thick romantic overlay. A warm radiance rises off this
work like a summer heat-haze. In the presto as in other of these quartet
movements it is surprising how often I was reminded of Tippett's Concerto
for Double String Orchestra and the Corelli Fantasia and even of Vaughan
Williams (the Tallis Fantasia came to mind several times during the first
movement) and Howells in pastoral mode. This quartet was also arranged as
a sinfonietta for strings and played by the Austrian Radio Orchestra under
Max Schönherr. A private archive recording survives.
What to expect? Well, it depends on the work. In the Chromatico there is
music of ardently lyric complexity - firmly tonal but pushing at the boundaries
(Verklärte Nacht) but more often bursting with ebullience. Sections
recall the three Korngold quartets, Warlock's string writing in his
accompaniments to the songs and in The Curlew and the quartets of Zemlinsky.
Nothing grates and all is emotionally consonant.
There is surely a great deal more to come in the Marx stakes. There are songs
with orchestral accompaniment and I continue to press for recordings of the
second piano concerto and the Respighian Castelli Romana (for piano and
orchestra). There is the symphony Eine Herbstsinfonie and the orchestral
Natur-Trilogie. I see from Brendan Carroll's well-informed notes that there
are also three piano quartets; so, ASV, if you are restricting yourself to
the chamber music you know in which direction your next Marx project lies.
For now do get this disc which I recommend with every confidence to anyone
at all taken with Germanic late-romanticism and with the Viennese scene of
the 1930s and 1940s.
See also review by Peter Grahame Woolf