Reviews of ASV CD:
Look at the dates of these three quartets. Marx’s
beloved Austria was tightly coiled in
the murderous embrace of the Nazi regime. In 1938 Marx was
removed from all his institutional posts and offices. This
music operates as a statement of faith in traditional values
although its endearing and warmly retrospective romanticism
would have made the music acceptable to the Third Reich. Certainly
all three achieved premieres in Graz and Vienna with prestigious ensembles.
Those who are familiar with his irresistibly sumptuous
orchestral music of the 1920s must prepare themselves for
quartets that look back well into the mid-late nineteenth
century. The style in the Modo Antico and Modo
Classico is classical-romantic; more the former than
the latter. There is none of the multi-tiered impressionism
to be found in the Herbstsymphonie or the Naturtrilogie.
The music radiates grace, sprightly virtues and well-turned
elegance. Its heartland is clearly with Schubert and Mozart
– lightly modernised. This latter element can be heard in
the delightful finale of the Modo Classico work. This
is gifted writing.
The earliest work here, the Quartetto Chromatico
was revised in 1948. Its language is more closely
related to the Marx of the 1920s but also declares kinship
with early Schoenberg and Karl Weigl. In the Sehr Langsam
third movement Marx’s tenderest romantic inspiration is
in constant efflorescence. A more carefree spirit pervades
the finale yet the chromatic ascendancy is still there. The
sound reminded me of John Foulds’ string quartets (Intimo
Things are looking up for Marx. The number of Marx
CDs in the catalogue is not great but it’s a transformational
improvement on the position only ten years ago. This is the
second CD with this programme. The other is ASV CD DCA 1073
which gave world premiere recordings by the Lyric Quartet
The CPO engineers placed their microphones that
much closer to the ensemble so we get a more intense and vital
engagement with the players and their ardour. There is also
the occasional rhythmic low thud well down in the sound-picture
which perhaps suggests a tapping foot. If you enjoy that close-up
engagement and appreciate a less expansive approach to Marx
then the CPO is for you. Otherwise the more concert-natural
and slightly distanced ASV disc is to be preferred. In the
Classico the Thomas Christian Ensemble are about two
minutes faster overall. For the other works there are only
seconds of a difference between ASV and CPO.
The Classico and the Antiquo found
their way into orchestral form and those versions can be had on
ASV (see review).
Berkant Haydin, founder and General Secretary of
the Josef Marx Society and the architect of the Marx revival
is our reliable and inspired guide in the extensive booklet
notes. Do not miss his website.
Vital, ardent, close-quarters playing and recording
of these variously retrospective and romantic quartets.