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Joseph MARX (1882-1964)
Piano Music
Six Pieces for Piano (Rhapsodie [6:27]; Präludium und Fuge: Präludium [3:25]; Fuge [6:35]; Albumblatt [4:00]; Arabeske [6:32]; Ballade [7:02]; Humoreske [6:02]) (1916) [40:05]
Herbst-Legende (Adagio) (n.d.) [5:05]
Carneval (Nachtstück) (n.d.) [2:46]
Canzone (n.d.) [2:54]
Die Flur der Engel (The Angel’s Meadow) (n.d.) [3:43]
Tonya Lemoh (piano)
rec. July 2006, Concert Hall of the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus. DDD
Text notes by Mervyn Cooke.
CHANDOS CHAN10479 [54:38]


Experience Classicsonline

The keyboard music of Joseph Marx forms a small part of his output as compared to his works in other genres. Except for these Six Pieces, it has not been published until recently, if at all; there is some disagreement on the subject. This disc contains about two-thirds of his works for piano. There are also ten works for organ.

The four ‘unpublished” works here all have a similar autumnal feel to them. It is to be remembered that the idea of autumn was of great importance to the composer and is the subject of his masterpiece the Herbstsymphonie. These works are on a much smaller scale but demonstrate less of the diffuseness that sometime plagues Marx’s works in other genres.

I was slightly surprised by the Herbst-Legende. Although it has reminiscences of Chopin and Scriabin, as does much of the music on this disc, it was more modernistic than I expected of Marx. There is an underlying melancholy that pervades all four of the individual pieces. Carneval also carries the title Nachtstück and this is far more appropriate for the music, where that same element of sadness is even more evident. The use of half-steps here is fascinating. The Canzone is more typical of the common conception of Marx and I found it the least interesting of the four uncollected pieces. Die Flur der Engel (the Angel’s Meadow) is a full-fledged miniature tone-poem and the most serene of the four pieces. It also shows a great interest in structure and well demonstrates the sense of flow that Marx singularly possessed.

In 1916 Marx was moving from the vocal works for which he is best known to  instrumental forms. The Six Pieces is one of the finest examples of this trend, which also corresponds to an increase of interest in structural concerns. The Six Pieces cover a wide range of forms and rhythmic styles and as a set is important in understanding the composer’s total oeuvre. The Rapsodie is tripartite work of great drive and metric originality. The underlying tone continues the melancholy of the four pieces previously discussed. A Prelude and Fugue is not something we might expect from Marx. Interestingly, the Praludium sounds a lot like Rachmaninoff. The fugue is extremely stately and even when increasing in volume and speed never loses this stately element. The contrapuntal ability demonstrated at the end is truly impressive. In spite of the typical charm of the Albumblatt this piece also possesses interesting elements of pentatonicism and impressionism, especially harmonically, proving the composer open to new trends. The most interesting piece of the six is the Arabesk. This is based on quartal harmonies and also contains impressionistic elements. It is fascinating from start to finish. It’s second section contains the origins of the first movement of the composer’s Castelli Romani. The Ballade does not seem to have a program, being a study in development through the use of metrical unevenness. It is perhaps the most passionate piece of the six and this is probably explained by the dedication to “Frau Anna”, presumably a reference to Anna Hansa, his lifelong love. The last piece is enjoyable, though somewhat slight, though not without surprises.

Tonya Lemoh studied the piano on four different continents and presently teaches at the University of Copenhagen as well as being a member of the well-known Ensemble Nordlys. She handles Marx’s music with appropriate flow and serenity while not letting it degenerate into becoming indistinct or unmemorable – criticisms sometimes levelled at Marx’s music. She also has sureness of touch and the needed sense of clarity. The Concert Hall of the Royal Academy in Aarhus has a sound that would be dry and rather metallic for music of many composers, but did not intrude on the proceedings here.

Chandos already has a recording of four of Marx’s choral works “in the can” and has promised the Herbstsymphonie, while CPO has just released a selection of the orchestral music and has announced discs of lesser-known songs, the second violin sonata, the piano quartets and the organ music. All of this will go a long way to make up for the demise in mid-stream of the ASV Marx series. Perhaps Ms. Lemoh can contribute by recording the six piano works not covered by this disc.

William Kreindler

see a
lso Review by Kevin Sutton



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