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Marx's Piano Music

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Joseph Marx, Pieces for Piano, T. Lemoh

(released on July 29, 2008)
Chandos CHAN 10479 | 54'38"
Having recently raved about the songs of Joseph Marx (1882–1964), I was pleased to get my hands on this new disc of the Austrian composer's piano music. Through the work of the Joseph-Marx-Gesellschaft and supportive musicians, Marx's music, in a stubbornly ultra-chromatic tonal style, is slowly being rediscovered. The performer on this recording, Tonya Lemoh (who thus makes her debut on the Chandos label), was born in Australia, although her father is from Sierra Leone; she studied in Sydney, at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and ultimately at the Royal Academy of Music in Århus. She is now on the piano faculty of the University of Copenhagen, and one can read her Web site in either Danish or English (click on the Australian flag).

Lemoh's eclectic recital debut was noted for its technical achievement (if not interpretative perfection) and unusual repertoire choices. The same fortitude is apparent in the fuller passages of the meat of the selection here, Marx's 40-minute Six Pieces for Piano from 1916, especially in the steely voicing of the entrances of the thickly textured fugue (third in Lemoh's arrangement of the movements). A decadently Romantic wanness is beautifully applied to the more translucent pieces in the set, like the Albumblatt and a Debussy-esque Arabeske, and playful esprit comes to the fore with the Humoreske. Lemoh is the first pianist to make a recording of the four other Marx pieces included here, all of them unpublished and rediscovered from manuscripts in the Austrian National Library. Die Flur der Engel is a little tiresome with its constant harp-like arpeggiation, but the other three pieces -- Herbst-Legende (Adagio), Carneval (Nachtstück), and Canzone -- are worthy discoveries. The full-bodied Steinway D is captured in excellent sound, with a few stray noises. Lemoh's future projects include a disc of piano music by Danish composer Svend Erik Tarp (1908–1994) for Da Capo and a Russian CD for Chandos, which we hope to hear soon.

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