Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

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JOSEPH MARX (1882-1964) Lieder: 20 songs (1906-11)  Dinah Bryant (soprano) Daniel Blumenthal (piano) recorded Brussels 1989 ETCETERA KTC1108 [63:43]



Marx's songs are a southern efflorescence; dazzling, deliquescent and decidedly romantic. The settings are of Dehmel, Hartleben, Hesse, Rilke, Zweig, Novalis and Eichendorff among many others.

The style is pretty distinctive and perhaps a bit unvarying. The main elements are an unfailingly impressionistic approach to piano writing and a natural feel for the rise, fall and spring of the sung word. The songs of Cyril Scott and John Ireland are a presence in these pages.

Nocturne is a Spanish serenade mixing Granados (of Goyescas) and Cyril Scott. Selige Nacht has the feeling of a warm serenade. Marienlied is concentrated glory and Bitte, an Austrian Salley Gardens. Dinah Bryant's voice is warmly rounded though slightly boomy in Und Gesten (a lovely song). The bell-like Hochsommernacht is a Delian melt-down: a treasurable bejewelled miniature tone-poem of high drama which, in its flight, seems to trace a falling and a rebirth. Speaking of tone-poems we should not overlook the great-hearted arching romance of the 8:36 Barkarole, setting von Schack or the similar spirited Im Maien - also an epic scena at 6:09. This contrasts with the delicate pictorialism of Windräder with its Grecian piano accompaniment depicting windmills.

There is a Housman-like resignation in Nachtgebet and the beautifully floated word 'Augen' marks out Ms Bryant's artistry. The music and the words are a counterpart for the Grecian Lad 'as I hear tell'. Blumenthal has a magical touch. Listen to him in the closing bars of the song. More vigorous moods sweep through Und gesten … and Waldseligkeit (the hearty Warlock), Die Elfe (jolly) and Ein Drängen (stormy).

The texts are in German with English translations. There are English, French and German notes by Ernest Huffman and Daniel Blumenthal. This project appears to be Blumenthal's and his notes recount his discovery of Marx through Marx pupil, Josef Blatt and his gradual exploration of the lieder through archival recordings. It would seem natural then for Blumenthal to tackle the Castelli Romani, Marx's dizzyingly colourful work for piano and orchestra.

The printing on the booklet and insert looks rather tired but there are no complaints about these fine songs, well sung and played as they are. Do not forget Marie-Paule Milone and Denis Pascal in the 28 songs (plus 7 piano solo pieces and the complete works for cello and piano) on a 2CD set (72:34+79:10) - Disques Fy et du Solstice SOCD 104/5. The Solstice set comes with remarkably detailed and enjoyable notes by the redoubtable Michel Fleury.

Recommended to lieder fanciers and those who would like to discover the softer Italianate side of Austrian romanticism: soft warm breezes from the South!


Rob Barnett


Rob Barnett

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