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Joseph MARX (1882-1964)
Orchestral Works: Volume 2 – Orchestral Songs

Songs for High Voice
1. Hat dich die Liebe berührt (1908) [2.37] (Paul Heyse)
2. Sommerlied (1909) [1.58] (Emanuel Geibel)
3. Maienblüten (1909) [1.48] (Ludwig Jacobowski)
4. Waldseligkeit (1911) [1.08] (Richard Dehmel)
5. Marienlied (1909) [2.04] (Novalis)
6. Zigeuner (1911) [2.23] (Max Geissler)
7. Selige Nacht (1912) [2.13] (Otto Erich Hartleben)
8. Piemontesisches Volkslied (1911) [1.44] (Max Geissler)
9. Ständchen (1912) [1.50] (Paul Heyse)
10. Der bescheidene Schäfer (1910) [2.00] (Christian Felix Weisse)
11. Barkarole (1909) [6.48] (Adolf Friedrich Graf von Schack)
Songs for Middle Voice

12. Jugend und Alter (1909) [2.53] (Walt Whitman)
13. Die Liebste spricht (1912) [1.04] (Paul Heyse)
14. Sendung (1912) [1.09] (Paul Heyse)
15. Japanisches Regenlied (1909) [1.41] (Pierre Loüys)
16. Venetianisches Wiegenlied (1912) [2.20] (Paul Heyse)
17. Erinnerung (1909) [2.49] (Josef von Eichendorff)
Verklärtes Jahr (1930-1932))
18. Ein Abschied [3.31] (Konstantin Mikhajlovich Fofanov)
19. Dezember [2.39] (Ottokar Kernstock)
20. Lieder [2.08] (Christian Morgenstern)
21. In meiner Träume Heimat [2.20] (Carl Hauptmann)
22. Auf der Campagna [6.21] (Joseph Marx)
Angela Maria Blasi – soprano
Stella Doufexis – mezzo
Bochum Symphony Orchestra/Steven Sloane
Rec. Maximilianpark, Hamm, Germany, September 2003. DDD
ASV-SANCTUARY CD DCA1164 [56.35]



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If you have heard Marx's Naturtrilogie on ASV CD DCA 1137 (reviewed here in 2003) you will know that Marx's 'signature' is a lyrically drenched cantilena whether in writing for voices or orchestra. It is therefore to be expected that he would write songs and that these would be hyper-romantic in line and treatment. Casting around for parallels takes us to Richard Strauss, to Karol Szymanowski, Erich Korngold, Viteszlav Novak and Czeslaw Marek. None of these quite catches the flavour but at least the territory is broadly marked out.

Marx was an Austrian whose allegiance to melody continued long past the time when fashion had moved on. Some might argue that his style had always been backward looking when compared to what was going on around him. If these integers were ever significant their relevance, getting on for a half century after Marx's death, has now melted away. The only thing that matters is the music and its telling effect.

All these songs (apart from the cycle Verklärtes Jahr) were written in the first decade of the last century and orchestrated in the 1930s. This was usually in response to invitations from singers and orchestras. At one stage he did not lack for performers even if this was limited to Austrian Radio. The stars who wanted to sing his songs included Ingeborg Stringer, Irmgard Seefried, Gertraud Hopf, Hilde Konetzni, Hildegard Rössel-Majdan, Arleen Auger, Ilse Rudolfine Werner and Ljuba Welitsch.

There is no commercially available competition for the present disc which has the trader shelves to itself. To provide some frame of reference I have drawn some comparisons with archival radio tapes.

These songs recall those of Delius, Grieg and Nielsen in their gorgeous lyricism but the instrumental line is not loaded down. They are all comparatively short; that's 22 songs in just short of 57 minutes.

Blasi's last song at 6.48 has the most complex orchestral part - starting with a rocking motion strongly redolent of Bax's Tintagel. Her voice rings out with virile command - listen to Ständchen. Marienlied is perhaps the most famous of the songs. Blasi is very much upfront - a characteristic she shares with Irmgard Seefried in her Austrian Radio broadcasts of a selection of the Marx songs. She conveys splendid command and emotional volatility in Waldseligkeit by comparison with the more impassive Seefried. In hat dich (tr. 1) sounds similar to In meiner traume heimat with its domestic overtones only cast aside at the end where it rises to dramatic heights.

There is a tension in these songs between the awesome stage opulence of operatic singers and the spring fresh innocence of younger voices. Compare Hilde Konetzni (if you can - again a radio tape) in a full-blown scena sung with swelling confidence. By contrast Blasi's voice takes on an iron edge at peak.

In Japanese Regenlied Rossl-Majdan is least impressive. Blasi sings and is recorded with caressing definition inviting the listener to luxuriate in the damask plushness of it all.

Venetianisches Gondolied, a song fragrant with Viennese coffee, includes a yodel and playfully sung by Doufexis. The heightening brilliance of the high violin and triangle accentuates the effect. Max Header with Gertraud Hopf in an Austrian Radio broadcast makes more of the slow susurration of the song but ultimately rather overdoes it.

A number of the songs carry the drama of an operatic scena and end with the triumphant eloquence of Hamilton Harty's Ode to a Nightingale. Certainly if you like these songs you should go for Heather Harper's Ulster Orchestra recording of the Harty piece (Chandos).

Zigeuner incorporates the suggestion of birdcall with the orchestra rippling in silken textures for Blasi. Seefried, in the same song, demonstrates stagecraft but I prefer Blasi's cleaner way with this music. Seefried ultimately is too knowing.

Sloane and his orchestra are good. In Barcarolle the evocation of summer zephyrs in the flutes (5.32) coincides with Blasi's voice, in triumph, rising over the orchestra. There is a Delian lilt to end and also a touch of the 'kick' and effervescent exuberance of Canteloube.

Doufexis has a noticeably heavier voice but lightens this for the lullaby of Erinnerung which Seefried recorded with Milan Horvat in 1971. By the 1970s her voice had darkened. There is certainly more of spring in Doufexis's voice.

Verklärtes Jahr is the major jewel here. It was written complete in 1932 rather than being an arrangement of earlier songs. The swell of great things is faithfully conveyed in Abschied. Baxian horns and Delian woodwind muse and carol. The mood is poignantly regretful in Dezember - brooding, brown and breathing Autumn. Im Sonnenschein at 1.21 is gorgeous and the fanfaring at the end may well remind you of Mahler.

There is one other commercial CD of Verklärtes Nacht. This is the version with piano accompaniment which inevitably loses much of the tenderness and opulent colour of the orchestra. In any event Marie-Paule Milone (mezzo) is accompanied by Denis Pascal recorded in 1992 on the French label FY Solstice SOCD104/5. I know of only one other recording of the full orchestral version. This has Ingeborg Springer accompanied by the Niederostereichisches Tonkünstlerorchester conducted by Karl Etti (1978). Doufexis is given a much more believable perspective than Springer and refined sound. The ASV stereo separation is extremely good - listen to the mandolin 'half-lights' at the start of Dezember. Springer may have more molasses in her voice but Doufexis is clear and fragrant of tone. Listen to her in meiner Traume heimat - which has a distinctly Baxian sigh and expansion.

Both Strauss and Korngold can go overboard on orchestral decoration. Marx shows control (though abandons himself to luxuriance in the orchestral Naturtrilogie) and allows the voluptuous lines to emerge with diaphanous transparency achieved without adipose weighting. He is as much a magician of the orchestra as Szymanowski and Bax.

This disc appears as the final stages were being put to volume 4 of this series by ASV-Sanctuary. This will feature the same orchestra and conductor plus the pianist David Lively (he has already made several recordings for Marco Polo) in the two Marx piano concertos: The Romantic and Castelli Romani. Beyond that we keep our fingers crossed for that fabled epic symphony of the 1920s, Marx’s Eine Herbstsymphonie.

These gorgeous works can be confidently recommended to anyone who has discovered the orchestral songs of Richard Strauss, Griffes, Korngold, Bax, Vitezlav Novak, Griffes, Marek, Szymanowski and Bantock.

Intrepid as ever, ASV bear away the laurels for this audacious first recording of Marx's songs with orchestra.

Rob Barnett

 



Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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