After far too long a period Marx is becoming better known - at least on CD.
His (non-music; he was largely self-taught) degree was from the University
of Graz but his celebrity and most of his mature life was centred in Vienna.
His local contemporaries were Schreker and Korngold and it is Korngold whose
auburn flowing melody is often suggested by the music on this disc.
This sonata (here in its world premiere recording) is a massive (hour long)
rhapsodic work deeply rooted in the late-romantic world. It dates from just
before the Great War. Vienna was the capital of the Austro-Hungarian empire
- an edifice no longer able to tell the difference between its high noon
and its sunset. However so far as music is concerned the mixed influences
of the many nations comprised in the empire made a rich soil. Marx himself
had Italian blood via his mothers side of the family and the bel canto
influence is very apparent in this music. The booklet mentions Respighi as
a composer recalled in the music of the Marx Romantic Piano Concerto (revived
by Jorge Bolet) and the yet to be recorded but absolutely gorgeous Castelli
Romani for piano and orchestra. I would also mention Martucci whose music
is available on ASV.
Two other composers will come to mind and both have elements of the glorious
sunset in their music. Delius (whose music is more Franco-German than it
is English) whose suite, violin sonatas and violin concerto seem to be from
the same block as the present Marx sonata. The Swiss Schubert:
Othmar Schoeck is also a reference point - try his violin concerto already
recorded on CD at least three times. If you already like the music of either
of these composers then you must hear this rewarding sonata. The only down-side
is the time-span across which Marxs material is deployed but more of
The music can sound uncannily English - rather like the pastoral Howells
(Piano Quartet), Gurney (Western Playland or Ludlow and Teme) and even John
Ireland (especially the first violin sonata). More often however the creamy
Viennese style asserts itself. Marx like Schoeck wrote lieder and his sympathy
for the human voice and for naturally singable melodic lines is apparent
throughout the work. The flow of melody across such a long time-span is of
course a challenge. This is a challenge which Marx does not completely meet.
There are moments when you wonder if the sonata might have been more pleasing
if it spanned 45 minutes rather than 60 minutes. That said I would not want
to be without the complete work which is of overflowing richness.
Both Ringborg and Blumenthal (a name much more familiar during the 1970s)
seem entirely in sympathy with this music. There is no sense of apology here.
Ringborn leans into the voluptuous romance of the music - definitely the
lead partner. It is only in the final movement when I wondered momentarily
whether the artists concentration and interest had slipped.
I came to know this music only comparatively recently from a copy loaned
by a friend and taken down from a BBC broadcast. The performers there were
Peter Mountain and Angela Dale. Their 1970s studio performance was passionate
but does not have cohesion to the same degree as the Pavane account. The
warm small concert-hall sound on the Pavane disc is very pleasing.
Superb bilingual (English and French) notes by Michel Fleury whose French
language book Impressionisme et la Musique (published a couple of years ago
in paperback) is well worth seeking out.
Pavanes design decisions are faultless. The CD and its packaging look
good and the notes are beautifully and thoughtfully laid out.
Interesting to note that Marxs compositions fall into clearly delineated
phases. 1911-20 was marked by many songs, solo piano pieces and by a clutch
of chamber works. 1920-30 included the orchestral works which we must hear
soon and all too few of which are available on CD: Eine Herbstsinfonie (1920),
Naturtrilogie (1922-5) and the two piano concertante works mentioned above.
We desperately need recordings of the two orchestral works and of the Castelli
For now I am delighted to see that Pavane are intending a second Marx violin
sonata disc (to be issued in March) which will include the much more compact
Fruhlingssonate and a selection of piano music.
Once again Pavane, as one of the enterprising minors, shows the
larger companies how to do it. I am convinced that we will see the internationals
taking up Marxs chamber music within the next 5 years. When that happens
the Ringborg account will be the benchmark. It will take some beating.
Recommended to all enthusiasts of the late romantics and especially those
who follow the composers mentioned above.
Pavane can be contacted at email@example.com. Their catalogue is worth