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Joseph MARX (1882-1964)
Eine Herbstsymphonie (1922)
Grazer Philharmoniker/Johannes Wildner
rec. 2018, Oper Graz, Austria
CPO 555 262-2 [67:00]

Marx’s 67-minute Herbstsymphonie is cast in four movements, each one longer than its predecessor until the final 26-minute summation, Ein Herbstpoem. Collectors who have followed this series so far and who may, for example, have acquired the disc containing Eine Frühlingsmusik, Idylle and Feste Im Herbst (see review) – this last a later reworking of the finale of the work under review - will know that Johannes Wildner is a committed and commanding exponent of Marx’s music and was perfectly placed to take on what is surely one of the most hotly anticipated of all Marx’s works yet to have been recorded.

And so it proves, in a memorable reading of a wide-ranging, typically personal orchestral statement, its stylistic juxtapositions ensuring there’s seldom a dull moment. Of post-impressionist languor there is no shortage – no surprise given Marx’s absorption of Debussy’s influence – and the influence of Delius in the opening section, and of the bolshier aspects of Strauss’ inheritance are audible too. The result is a kind of harmonically convoluted ecstasy, supported by orchestration that sometimes even wilfully pits sections against each other. As if to dispel the headiness, the 16-minute Tanz der Mittagsgeister introduces a sense of elegiac refinement of texture, the deft underlying rhythm exemplifying Marx’s ability to keep the music on the move. Indeed, one of the things about the whole edifice is its concept of time; by some alchemy Marx seems to subvert the laws of time and motion, compressing both.

The third section is Herbstgedanken and its glorious, giddy sway flows richly and seamlessly with overwhelming grandeur; a sheer efflorescence of sonic glory, with an almost supra-symphonic sense of inexorable sweep. The extensive harvest tableau of the finale is suffused in genial ländler rhythms, with thematic material that sounds more modern than heretofore in the work, as well as employing some antique sounding dances, This compelling, resonant accommodation of the contemporary and the past operates as a kind of all-embracing narrative device. The music is unceasingly exciting and lively, the winds ravishing in their warmth, the climaxes gripping, immediate and overwhelming (the passage at 22:30 had me on my feet).

The recording is powerful but precise and orchestral colours and effects register viscerally without academic spotlighting. The notes are by expert Marxians Berkant Haydin and Peter Rastl. The orchestra plays splendidly and Wildner is magnificent. A triumph.

Jonathan Woolf

Previous review: Rob Barnett



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