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  Classical Editor: Rob Barnett  
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Joseph MARX (1882-1964)
Natur-Trilogie (1922-5):-
1. Ein Symphonische Nachtmusik (1922)
2. Idylle - Concertino über die pastorale Quart (1925)
3. Eine Frühlingsmusik (1925)
Bochum SO/Steven Sloane
rec. Maximilianpark, Hamm, Germany, 11-15 June 2002. DDD
Complete Orchestral Music: Volume 1.
ASV CD DCA 1137 [64.19]

It has been a long time since I encountered so little tension and contrast as found in this Joseph Marx disc. The ‘Nature’ that Marx offers is big, lush and constantly friendly, representing just a small fraction of Nature's spectrum of events and feelings. Further, Marx sounds more like a Hollywood entertainer than a naturalist. His gushing syrup spreads to the horizon with climaxes that tend to meander their way into the soundstage with no rhyme or reason other than to call attention to themselves.

Late-romantic to the core, the "Nature Trilogy" sounds like a mix of watered-down Debussy, Holst's Planets without any bite or great tunes, loud new-age music and Tchaikovsky without intensity. I suppose the pieces do succeed as mood music, but over 60 minutes of benign and non-coherent doodling is a bit much for one sitting.

I can't be sure, but my gut tells me that Steven Sloane and the Bochum Symphony Orchestra do nothing to shake the music out its monotonous doldrums. It is possible that the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra could do something with the compositions, but I would bet against that happening. I do have fond memories of another ASV disc having Marx String Quartets, but the "Nature" disc is a different and inferior kettle of fish.

To be fair, I should relate that many folks have spoken well of the recording, and my opinion might well be a minority one. However, I find nothing redeeming in this orchestral music except Marx's ability to create and maintain lush environments.

If you want to experience the best of Marx, head to the ASV chamber music disc or a disc of his songs. The "Nature Trilogy" is largely one-dimensional, not highly evocative of the natural world and bereft of even one wonderful melody. ASV is apparently set to issue additional Marx orchestral recordings, and I sincerely hope they display something other than the boring utterances found on the initial orchestral offering. For what it is worth, the soundstage has exceptional depth and clarity.

Don Satz


See also reviews by Rob Barnett and Colin Scott-Sutherland

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