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Joseph MARX (1882-1964)
Orchestral Songs and Choral Works
Herbstchor an Pan (1911) [18:45]
Barkarole (1909) [7:01]
Zigeuner (1911) [2:40]
Der bescheidene Schäfer (1910) [2:10]
Selige Nacht (1912) [2:28]
Sommerlied (1909) [2:01]
Marienlied (1909) [2:36]
Maienblüten (1909) [1:57]
Waldseligkeit (1911) [1:12]
Und gestern hat er mich Rosen gebracht (1909) [2:35]
Piemontesisches Volkslied (1911) [2:08]
Ständchen (1911) [2:00]
Hat dich die liebe berurht (1908) [2:37]
Morgengesang (1910) [8:27]
Berghymne (1911) [2:20]
Ein Neujahrshymnus (1914) [9:28]
Christine Brewer (soprano)
Elizabeth Roberts (soprano); Vernon Kirk (tenor); Graham Titus (bass) (Herbstchor); Susan Monks (cello) (Waldseligkeit)
Trinity Boys Choir; Apollo Voices; BBC Symphony Chorus
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Jiří Bělohlávek
rec. 15-16 May 2008, Maida Vale Studios, London (songs); 29 June 2008, Watford Colosseum (choral). DDD
CHANDOS CHAN10505 [71:33]


Experience Classicsonline

What makes Marx’s orchestral songs and choral works so distinguished is their lyric distinction, harmonic personalisation and their extreme compression. The last is not necessarily a virtue in itself but when wedded to such other qualities it most certainly is. It reveals Marx to have had as acute an antenna for the currents in German poetry as he had confidence in his own supple and concise craftsmanship.


That said, it’s wise to begin with the first ever recording of the biggest work here, the 1911 setting of Herbstchor an Pan. If elsewhere early Marx might remind you of an axis situated somewhere between Reger and Strauss here his emblazoned opus is richly, powerfully and passionately Delian-Strauss. The writing reaches almost voluptuary heights in the third section (Grämlich dahinter dehnt sich der grosse Pan) and in the fourth the organ, pealing winds and tremendously focused choral forces contribute to an overwhelming experience – one reflected in the authority and imaginative writing. It touches, true, at moments on the religiose but it is moving and redolent in the orchestration and curve of the writing of parts of Ein Heldenleben, written a decade earlier. I’d strongly recommend this to you if you have a reluctance to engage with Marx – not necessarily because it’s the most obvious place to start but perhaps for that very reason.


There are plenty more pleasures to come including three further premiere recordings. Barkarole is a luscious Straussian waltz – Richard not a Johann – whilst Zigeuner seems to reflect more of Strauss’s influence, specifically Der Rosenkavalier, which premiered at the beginning of the same year, 1911, that Marx wrote his song. Christine Brewer adds significantly to the success of the disc. She sings with great control, the warmly floated line of Selige Nacht is just as impressive as any of the more assertive settings. She also sings with engagement both with the texts and the vocal line; nothing vapid about her contributions at all. The swooning strings and Brewer’s beguiling singing are at their most wicked in Marienlied but it’s not as if Marx couldn’t unbend - Und gestern hat er mich Rosen gebracht is a light hearted but warmly textured setting, perfectly rendered here.


There are moments when Marx reaches for salon ease and that’s the case in a setting such as Ständchen but Chandos has neatly followed this with the previously unrecorded Hat dich die liebe berurht in which Straussian flames blaze brightly once more.  Morgengesang is a powerful, stirring piece that ends in Wagnerian glow and the concluding Ein Neujahrshymnus is a ceremonial affair and vigorous.


The orchestral and choral forces have been very well served by Chandos; this is a disc that frequently blazes like a bark on the open seas. Editorial workmanship has ensured that full orchestrations have been produced. I wouldn’t want to pretend that all these settings are equally persuasive; they’re not, and some do lag. But at their finest, in these splendid performances, so well directed by Bělohlávek, we can enjoy the best of them. Marx really does come alive here.


Jonathan Woolf

see also Review by Rob Barnett


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