> MARX Violin Sonata 1 ADW7378 [RB]: Classical Reviews- April 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Joseph MARX (1882-1964)
Violin Sonata (No. 1) in A major (1913)
Tobias Ringborg (violin)
Daniel Blumenthal (piano)
Rec 1993, Brussels DDD
PAVANE ADW7378 [58:36]


Experience Classicsonline

After far too long a period Marx is becoming better known - at least on CD. His degree was from the University of Graz but his celebrity and most of his mature life was centred on Vienna. His local contemporaries were Schreker and Korngold and it is Korngold whose auburn flowing melody is often suggested by the music on this disc.

This sonata here is accorded its world premiere recording. It is a massive hour long rhapsodic work deeply rooted in the late-romantic world. It dates from just before the Great War. Vienna was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire - an edifice no longer able to tell the difference between its high noon and its sunset. However so far as music is concerned the mixed influences of the many nations comprised in the empire made a rich soil. Marx himself had Italian blood via his mother’s side of the family and the bel canto influence is very apparent in this music. The booklet mentions Respighi as a composer recalled in the music of the Marx Romantic Piano Concerto (revived by Jorge Bolet and recorded on Hyperion) and the yet to be recorded but absolutely gorgeous Castelli Romani for piano and orchestra.

Two other composers will come to mind when listening to this music. Both have elements of the glorious sunset in their music. Delius (whose music is more Franco-German than it is English) whose suite, violin sonatas and violin concerto seem to be from the same block as the present Marx sonata. The ‘Swiss Schubert’: Othmar Schoeck is also a reference point - try his violin concerto already recorded on CD at least three times. If you already like the music of either of these composers then you must hear this rewarding sonata. The only down-side is the time-span across which Marx’s material is deployed but more of that later.

The music can sound uncannily English - rather like the pastoral Howells (Piano Quartet), Gurney (Western Playland or Ludlow and Teme) and even John Ireland (especially the first violin sonata). More often however the creamy Viennese style asserts itself. Marx, like Schoeck, wrote lieder and his sympathy for the human voice and for naturally singable melodic lines is apparent throughout the work. The flow of melody across such a long time-span is, of course, a challenge. This is a challenge which Marx does not completely trounce. There are moments when you wonder if the sonata might have been more pleasing if it spanned 45 minutes rather than 60 minutes. That said I would not want to be without the complete work which is of overflowing richness.

Both Ringborg and Blumenthal (a name much more familiar during the 1970s) are entirely in sympathy with this music. There is no sense of apology. Ringborn leans into the voluptuous romance of the music - definitely the lead partner. It is only in the final movement when I wondered momentarily whether the artists’ concentration and interest had slipped.

I came to know this music only comparatively recently from a copy loaned by a friend and taken down from a BBC broadcast. The performers there were Peter Mountain and Angela Dale. Their 1970s studio performance was passionate but does not have cohesion to the same degree as the Pavane account. The warm small concert-hall sound on the Pavane disc is very pleasing.

Superb bilingual (English and French) notes by Michel Fleury whose French language book Impressionisme et la Musique (published in the mid-1990s in paperback) is well worth seeking out.

Pavane’s design decisions are faultless. The CD and its packaging look good and the notes are beautifully and thoughtfully laid out.

Interesting to note that Marx’s compositions fall into clearly delineated phases. 1911-20 was marked by many songs, solo piano pieces and by a clutch of chamber works. 1920-30 included the orchestral works which we must hear soon and all too few of which are available on CD: Eine Herbstsinfonie (1920), Naturtrilogie (1922-5) and the two piano concertante works mentioned above. We desperately need recordings of the two orchestral works and of the Castelli Romani.

Pavane are intending a second Marx violin sonata disc which will include the much more compact Fruhlingssonate and a selection of piano music. This may well be issued later this year.

Once again Pavane, as one of the enterprising ‘minors’, shows the larger companies how to do it. I am convinced that we will see the internationals further taking up Marx’s chamber music within the next 5 years. When that happens the Ringborg account will be the benchmark. It will take some beating. Recommended to all enthusiasts of the late romantics and especially those who follow the composers mentioned above.

Robert Barnett


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