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Bartók in the Desert - The Art of Irén Marik (1905-1986)
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Bénédiction de Dieu dans le solitude [14.37]
Apparitions, no. 1 [5.29]
Vallée d'Obermann (first version) [13.31]
Berceuse [8.16]
Harmonies du Soir [9.12]
Les Jeux d'eau a la Villa d’Este [8.01]
Zoltan KODALY (1882-1967)
Dances from Marosszék [9.40]
Béla BARTÓK (1881-1945)
Rondo No.1 on folk themes [2.49]
Suite, Op. 14 [8.07]
Allegro Barbaro [2.30]
Mikrokosmos Book VI – Nos 140-144, 147 [11.47]
Romanian Folk Dances [4.36]
Evening in Transylvania [2.20]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)

Fantasia, Op. 116/2 [3.22]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Piano Sonata no. 30, Op. 109 [18.27]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sinfonia in D minor [1.48]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Images, Book II – [12.54]
Cloches a travers les feuilles
Et la lune descend sur le temple qui fut
Poissons d’or
Preludes Book II -Tierces alternées [2.19]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Miroirs: Vallée des Cloches [5.03]
Fryderyk CHOPIN (1810-1849)
Etude in A flat, Op. 25/1 [2.24]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Impromptu, Op. 90/2 [4.30]
Joseph HAYDN (1732-1809)
Sonata no. 49: Allegro non troppo [6.14]
Jean Baptiste LULLY (1632-1687)
Courante [1.21]
Irén Marik (piano)
Recorded 1950s-1983. Draco and unpublished recordings recorded 1956-1974. Zodiac LP. Unpublished recordings recorded 1950s-1983
ARBITER 143 [79.49 + 79.19]

Irén Marik’s rather remarkable story is told in the booklet notes of this intriguing release. Born in Hungary in 1905 – in Szölnök to be precise – she attended the Franz Liszt Academy in Budapest and made her debut in London in 1927. She studied with Bartók as well as with a Busoni pupil, Imre Stefaniai and also in London with George Woodhouse, a Leschetizky pupil. She suffered privation during the War and defected to America shortly after the cessation of hostilities. She made a New York debut in 1950, formed a duo and made a series of rather obscure LPs. She spent many years teaching. The chase to rediscover her is entertainingly told and it was successful. Marik died in 1986. Allan Evans notes that a Liszt Sonata recording of hers is a real find – so maybe we shall hear that some day.

In the meantime we have the contents of two CDs to ponder. The recordings derive from diverse sources, as a look at the head-note will indicate. Some are sourced from Zodiac and Draco recordings, whilst others are unpublished. It’s a collection of valuable material. Her Liszt, recorded variously in 1956, c.1963 and 1974 is certainly variable but at its best has a strong sense of character as well as considerable technical prowess. Her Vallée d’Obermann (first version) is more extrovert and outward going than Richter’s sullen introspection though the latest of the readings, Les jeux d’eau, is rather circumspect and careful when measured against the sparkling magic of an Arrau (Berlin, 1928).

Her Kodaly – with whom she also briefly studied – has density, acute rhythm and some fine treble colour and it’s of great interest to hear her Hungarian repertoire. Her Bartók for example is plentifully represented here. The Op.14 Suite is certainly up to tempo and is dispatched with insight and authority – from a 1956 Draco LP. The excerpts from Mikrokosmos Book VI are excellent and I was particularly taken by the pictorial From the Diary of a Fly (No.142). Nevertheless the second disc also opens up other musical vistas. The Bach Sinfonia, recorded privately toward the end of her life has a grave nobility. Her Haydn seems preferable to her Schubert on the evidence only of two smaller examples though the Lully is preferable to either. Her Debussy differs strongly from the recordings of, say, George Copeland whose more clear and clean and lightly pedalled performances offer a contrastive view to the Gieseking-derived evocative fog. Her Beethoven sonata is a touch dry and can hang fire (slight dropouts in the finale) but the final Bartók examples, the Romanian Folk Dances and the Evening in Transylvania finish on an affirmative note – from 1959 and like so much else here previously unpublished.

This being the case collectors will appreciate the varying states of preservation of the recordings. There’s some tape print through in Vallée d’Obermann for instance and surface and other noise. But in the main these are very listenable recordings given the precarious nature of the state of preservation. Splendid notes as ever from Arbiter and something of a find for piano collectors, though caution should be exercised over some performances. That caveat noted – what about her Liszt Sonata?

Jonathan Woolf



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