If you have heard Marx's
Naturtrilogie on ASV CD DCA
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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