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Joseph MARX (1882-1964)
Orchestral Songs

Angela Maria Blasi (soprano)
Stella Doufexis (mezzo)
Bochum Symphony Orchestra/Steven Sloane
rec. 2003, Stadthalle, Wuppertal, Germany
NAXOS 8.573833 [56.35]

The ASV origins of this disc can be traced back to that long-defunct label’s Marx series from the first half of the 2000s. Naxos is now reissuing it as part of their own catalogue. They already have the first volume (ASV original) and more are surely to come: light music (8.573832), piano concertos and string quartets. From left field, CPO, this month, have completed the orchestral cycle begun by ASV. CPO’s recording (555 262-2) of Marx’s monumental Eine Herbstsymphonie was made by the Grazer Philharmoniker under Johannes Wildner last June. The Graz orchestra were the first to perform the symphony in modern times in 2005 when they were conducted by Michael Swierczewski but no recording was issued. There was a download, but no CD, of Botstein’s performance with the American Symphony.. In November 2018 I was delighted to hear the UK premiere of the Symphony at the Royal Festival Hall when it was played by the LPO conducted by Vladimir Jurowski (review); again, no recording.

With the exception of the cycle Verklärtes Jahr, the lieder on this disc date from the first decade of the 20th century. They were orchestrated in the 1930s. This came about usually in response to invitations from singers and orchestras. At one time Marx did not lack for performers, even if this was limited to Austrian Radio who, by the way, have issued a CD of Marx archive recordings. 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.

Marx wrote many songs and his DNA, whether for voices or orchestra, is marked out by lyrically drenched and voluptuous cantilena framed and borne on high by hyper-romanticism. Casting around for parallels we can point out Hans Sommer, Othmar Schoeck, Karol Szymanowski, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Viteszlav Novak, Czeslaw Marek, Martucci and Respighi. None of these quite catches the Marx flavour but broadly mark out the territory. The 22 songs on the Naxos CD recall those of Delius, Grieg and Nielsen in their gorgeous lyricism. They are all comparatively short; that's 22 songs in just short of an hour.

Angela Maria Blasi is very much upfront and her voice rings out with virile command - listen to Ständchen. She conveys splendid command and emotional volatility in Waldseligkeit. There is a tension in these songs between the 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 Blasi is recorded with caressing definition, inviting the listener to luxuriate in the damask plushness of it all.

Venetianisches Gondolied, a song fragrant with Viennese coffee, includes a yodel and is playfully lofted by Stella Doufexis. A number of the songs carry the drama of an operatic scena and end in the triumphant eloquence of Hamilton Harty's Ode to a Nightingale (Chandos - and not to be missed). Doufexis has a voice noticeably heavier than Blasi but lightens this for the lullaby of Erinnerung. Verklärtes Jahr is the major item here. It was completed in 1932 rather than being an arrangement of earlier songs. The swell of great things is faithfully conveyed in Abschied. Baxian horns (Spring Fire) erupt and Delian woodwind muses and carols. The mood is poignantly regretful in Dezember - brooding, brown and breathing in Autumn. In Im Sonnenschein the fanfaring at the end may well remind you of Mahler.

The in-depth and informed liner-notes are by Berkant Haydin the “onlie begetter” of the Marx website and by Martin Rucker. The sung words are included in the Naxos booklet with parallel-printed translations into English.

These gorgeous works can be confidently recommended to anyone who has discovered the orchestral songs of Strauss, Griffes, Korngold, Bax, Novak, Schreker, Zemlinsky, Griffes, Marek, Szymanowski, Bax and Bantock. Sloane and his orchestra are good and they are complemented by good stereo separation - listen to the mandolin 'half-lights' at the start of Dezember. Intrepid as ever, Naxos now hold high the laurels for this audacious recording of Marx's songs with orchestra.

Rob Barnett

Songs for soprano and orchestra
1. Hat dich die Liebe berührt (Paul Heyse) (1908) [2.37]
2. Sommerlied (Emanuel Geibel) (1909) [1.58]
3. Maienblüten (Ludwig Jacobowski) (1909) [1.48]
4. Waldseligkeit (Richard Dehmel) (1911) [1.08]
5. Marienlied (Novalis) (1909) [2.04]
6. Zigeuner (Max Geissler) (1911) [2.23]
7. Selige Nacht (Otto Erich Hartleben) (1912) [2.13]
8. Piemontesisches Volkslied (Max Geissler) (1911) [1.44]
9. Ständchen (Paul Heyse) (1912) [1.50]
10. Der bescheidene Schäfer (Christian Felix Weisse) (1910) [2.00]
11. Barkarole (1909) (Adolf Friedrich Graf von Schack) [6.48]
Songs for Mezzo-soprano and orchestra
12. Jugend und Alter (Walt Whitman) (1909) [2.53]
13. Die Liebste spricht (Paul Heyse) (1912) [1.04]
14. Sendung (1912) (Paul Heyse) [1.09]
15. Japanisches Regenlied (Pierre Loüys) (1909) [1.41]
16. Venetianisches Wiegenlied (Paul Heyse) (1912) [2.20]
17. Erinnerung (1909) (Josef von Eichendorff) [2.49]
Verklärtes Jahr (1930-1932)
18. Ein Abschied (Konstantin Mikhajlovich Fofanov) [3.31]
19. Dezember (Ottokar Kernstock) [2.39]
20. Lieder (Christian Morgenstern) [2.08]
21. In meiner Träume Heimat (Carl Hauptmann) [2.20]
22. Auf der Campagna (Joseph Marx) [6.21]



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