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
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.
See also reviews
Barnett and Colin