CD Reviews | CTD (Briefly Noted) | JFL (Dip Your Ears) | DVD Reviews


Dip Your Ears, No. 254 (Marx: The Romanticist Manifesto)

available at Amazon
J.Marx, Piano Concertos,
Bochum SO / Steve Sloane

Hallelujah, Marx is back! It was only a matter of time before the once popular but eventually wildly out-of-fashion ultra-conservative Viennese composer would enjoy a little mini-renaissance… or two or three. Joseph Marx’ music is “a sort of cross between Delius and Korngold” (Hurwitz). That sounds actually quite good – and, in fact, if you are into the never-truly-in-fashion heavy post-romantic genre, you will find much to love here. You won’t mind that it’s music with a high caloric count but relatively little nutritional value. Or, as Hurwitz put it: “Music in which the closer you listen, the less you actually hear.” Well, some Marx is better and some Marx is worse, and if you avoid the lesser examples of his output, he qualifies as a #SurprisedByBeauty-composer in my book. (And by "my book" I mean Bob Reilly's book... or a future volume III, rather.)

Jed Distler’s review of the original release on ClassicsToday

So it’s good news that Naxos is bringing back the out-of-print ASV recordings of the composer… recordings that were instrumental in putting the Bochum Symphony and their long-long-long time conductor Steve Sloane on the map of (obscure) music lovers around the world. Specifically, we are looking at the re-issue of the piano concertos… which are – just – among the better examples of his output. There’s the grand, aptly named Romantic Piano Concerto. Jorge Bolet loved it, Marc-Andre Hamelin recorded it. And here is the US-French pianist David Lively (a one-time fourth place finisher in the Queen Elizabeth Competition) taking a crack at it. The 40-minute behemoth concerto embeds the soloist firmly into the orchestral texture (with relatively little separate classical-mode give-and-take going on). The grand romantic opening gesture could make any Hollywood score blanch. It moves on to be variously brooding (a rare flavor in happy Marx), dancing, and triumphant flavor with a few longueurs between, but not too many. Hamelin and Vänskä’s Hyperion account, actually the older recording, is a crisper take. Lively (nomen non est omen) and Sloane are closer to overegging the pudding with their leisurely but admittedly luxurious approach.

Jorge Bolet Plays Marx’ Romantic Piano Concerto with the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta

Castelli Romani, Marx’ second piano concerto, follows in a similar vein, although the more obvious aural paragons to the inspired epigone Marx are Respighi, Lehar (listen for Land des Lächelns-parallels in the opening), and perhaps Bax. It is full of wide-eyed Italianate clichés and sounds no more serious-minded than a tourist, glass of cheap Chianti in hand, on a busy piazza enjoying the heck out of the setting. You’ll be half-surprised the concerto doesn’t just break out into song, “Mamma Mia!”-style. But then there’s something to be said for its frolicking air, if you are not allergic to that stuff. And it keeps everything tighter together than the Romantic Concerto… making it far less prone to meander. The Bochumers aren’t the greatest band in the world, but they are an example of how very high the standards of a well-led third tier German orchestra are.


No comments: