Joseph Marx was one of Austria’s leading composers for some decades, and a major figure in music for two generations of musicians in the 20th century. He was director of the Vienna College of Music in the 1920s and had friendships with Ravel, Szymanowski, Schmidt, Korngold, Berg, Schreker and Kodaly. However, he is sadly almost forgotten today, even though much of his music would have wide appeal. It was quite different from most Austrian and German music of the time, since Marx’s models were Debussy, Scriabin and Reger. He was attracted to Greek mythology and ancient life. Marx lived until 1964.
His Idylle of 1925 can be described as a Germanic counterpart of Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. Woodwinds and two harps are prominent in the creation of a dreamy and atmospheric mood. It is subtitled Concertino on the Pastoral Fourth and was to my ears the real gem of the three works here. The Spring Music is also strong in woodwinds and mixes impressionistic and romantic qualities with strong emotional feeling exploiting the widest range of the orchestra, although it adheres to basic sonata form. The symphonic poem Feasts in Autumn receives its recording premiere here. It depicts activities at harvest time and has a number of very lyrical sections, some not without an elegiac mood.
CPO’s sonics in this recording made last year by ORF Radio are top flight. If Marx’s music is to your liking, you may want to check out the four all-Marx CDs on the ASV label, including his delightful piano concertos.
– John Sunier