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Piano Concertos


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1. I. Lebhaft (Allegro Moderato)
2. II. Nicht Zu Langsam (Andante Affettuoso)
3. III. Sehr Lebhaft (Allegro Molto)
4. I. Villa Hadriana. Allegro (Ma Non Tanto)
5. II. Tusculum. Andante
6. III. Frascat. Presto

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Amazon.com: 4 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Passionately romantic spirit vs. ancient-style impressionism July 16 2005
By B. Haydin - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
The Piano Concertos of Joseph Marx (1882-1964)

- Romantic Piano Concerto (1919/20) ==> 41 minutes

- Castelli Romani (1929-30) ==> 32 minutes

Joseph Marx was not only a widely acknowledged Mid-European composer of his era but also one of the most admired and most active teachers within the international music community, and as such he was no less famous than his French contemporary Nadia Boulanger. Also, Marx who often accompanied his songs on the piano until old age, was an excellent pianist. Those of his students who are still living today recall that he, in the middle of his lectures, would spontaneously play even highly demanding piano pieces anytime flawlessly and from memory. At the time he wrote the "Romantic Piano Concerto" (1919/20), Marx's development as a composer of orchestral music was already fulfilled, and as a symphonist often conducting his own works, he wrote further large scale works such as "Nordland-Rhapsodie" (Nordic Rhapsody) and "Natur-Trilogie" (Nature Trilogy", already released on ASV).

The energetic piano part of the Romantic Piano Concerto (1919/20) which demands a high degree of virtuosity and stamina from the soloist is modern in sound texture, so that stylistically the "Romantic" is close to those Scandinavian piano concertos of Palmgren and Hannikainen, as well as to British piano concertos (e.g. Harty and Delius), while the manifold harmonies are often reminiscent of Scriabin and Debussy, and especially of Marx's Bulgarian counterpart and friend Pancho Vladigerov. The concerto could be described as a symphonic duet between piano and orchestra. The piano rarely appears as a separate sound body but is entwined with the symphonic arrangement and often used for its colouristic effects. However, this must seem a thankless task to the majority of pianists, as only the skilled listener will realize the enormous show of strength which is required from the soloist. This could be one of the reasons why only a few seem to have attempted to play this magnificently boisterous, wildly romantic virtuoso piece.

On one of his car trips south, Marx whose grandmother was Italian, visited the Castelli Romani, the legendary ruins on the forested hills near Rome. In his hereafter named second piano concerto "Castelli Romani - Three Pieces for Piano and Orchestra" (1929-1930), Marx has set an outstanding memorial for this spot which is so highly significant from an art-historical point of view, as he would also do soon afterwards with Auf der Campagna (the fifth movement of "Verklärtes Jahr" for middle voice and orchestra, 1930-32). The world première of "Castelli Romani" took place on the 5th of February, 1931, in Darmstadt under Karl Böhm. The celebrated soloist Walter Gieseking in letters to Joseph Marx frequently expressed his adoration for this remarkable virtuoso work and his gratitude for the opportunity to perform it. "Castelli Romani" in E-flat major that was never commercially recorded to date, is a magical firework display of Mediterranean emotions and masterfully instrumented atmospheric images. Here Marx symbolises the spiritual life of classical Greek and Roman culture as well as of the Renaissance. His impressionisms, enriched with folkloristic elements, remind one of Ravel but also mirror the glowing passion of Charles Martin Loeffler's Pagan Poem for piano and orchestra, yet the third movement of Castelli Romani in particular pays homage to the famous Roman Trilogy by Ottorino Respighi who, not surprisingly, was friends with Marx.

Marx, who never wrote film music, left a multitude of dazzling themes that make Hollywood's wildest dreams appear grey. His works enrich the whole genre of the late-romantic piano concerto and will, thanks to this recording, hopefully be performed more frequently and live on as treasures of music history in the hearts of the listeners.

Berkant Haydin
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Two Unabashedly Romantic Piano Concertos July 8 2005
By J Scott Morrison - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
This is the fifth CD among recent recordings of music by Joseph Marx (1882-1964), due largely to the illimitable enthusiasm for his music by Berkant Haydin who spearheaded all but one of these recordings and who maintains a very helpful website devoted to the composer, [...] and who also wrote the booklet notes for this issue. The recording of the Second Concerto, called 'Castelli Romani,' is a world première. The First Concerto, the so-called 'Romantic,' has previously been recorded gorgeously by Marc-André Hamelin on Hyperion.

The Romantic Piano Concerto (1919-20) is a big, ultraromantic three-movement work lasting about forty minutes. The orchestral accompaniment, here and in the Castelli Romani, is handled beautifully by the Bochum Symphony Orchestra under conductor Stephen Sloane. They are the same group who so successfully recorded three of the earlier issues in the ASV series. Clearly they have Marx's orchestral style in the blood. For me the absolute highlight of the series so far is the gorgeous 'Naturtrilogie,' which I have also reviewed here. As for this concerto, it is in the tradition of those high romantic concertos we all know and love - Grieg, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff etc. Marx has his own voice -- there are always elements of impressionism mixed into his admittedly conservative style -- but the overall effect is rather the same as those mentioned: gorgeous melodies, rich harmonies, lush orchestration, virtuosic piano passage work. If the melodic invention is not quite on the highest level, there is still very much here to enjoy.

The Second Concerto is rather a different animal. Written in 1931 and premièred by Walter Gieseking with an orchestra under Karl Böhm, it is Marx's attempt to limn in music his impressions of three sites of a well-loved trip to Italy the composer had made. The first movement, 'Villa Hadriana,' evokes by use of medieval open fifths and fourths and modal scales the ancient world of Hadrian's villa. The second movement, 'Tusculum,' is a pastorale recalling an ancient village of that name. 'Frascati,' for me the most compelling of the three movements, uses Respighian orchestration (including one passage that sounds almost cribbed from 'Pines of Rome,' not inappropriate one must admit) and Italian folksong. The orchestration in this concerto is leaner than in the cholesterol-rich first concerto and this gives a musical impression of ancient times and places.

David Lively is an American pianist who, of course, learned these concerti for this recording. One never has the sense that he is just playing the notes; he seems both committed to and in love with these pieces. Neither of the concertos has entered the repertory of touring virtuosi. One hopes that this recording, plus that of Hamelin, will revive some interest in this creditable concertos.

Next, we are told, will be a recording of what some have called Marx's masterpiece, the 'Herbstsymphonie' ('Autumn Symphony'), a gargantuan work whose praises have been sung by a number of musicians familiar with the score. I, for one, can hardly wait.

TT=73:00

Scott Morrison
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Simply Gorgeous July 27 2009
By B. R. Merrick - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This is lovely Romantic music. Written as the era came into its full flowering, Marx revels in the gorgeousness of his harmonies, employing thick chords throughout the piano part, with an orchestra in continual motion behind every sweeping gesture.

The orchestra and soloist on this recording are well-balanced and thorough in their approach. These are those rare musical offerings that work both as serious dramatic works to be contemplated separate from all other activity (while exploring nature or sitting in the concert hall), or to be played in the background while working or at a social gathering. Beautiful music beautifully played.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Sumptuous romanticism in good performances March 20 2014
By G.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Joseph Marx was remained an ardent romantic throughout the first half of the twentieth century, but it is probably wrong to call his music anachronistic. Yes, it is almost over the top in its use of lush – even dense – textures and its heart-on-sleeve, winding melodies that verges on the salonesque, sometimes creating an effect not dissimilar to a bowl of marshmallows doused in luke-warm chocolate. It is somewhat reminiscent of Rachmaninov, Respighi or Korngold, but Marx’s music is if anything even more, well, sensual and sweet-toothed. As one may expect, it is sometimes a bit much, but Marx usually knew what he was doing, and the results are often almost surprisingly appealing. The music also carries a personal stamp, especially because of Marx’s harmonic palette, which sometimes reminds me of Busoni (but that is not to say that Marx’s is derivative).

A series devoted to his orchestral music is certainly in order. The disc at hand gives us his music for piano orchestra, which includes the world premiere recording of the three-movement Castelli Romani, as well as the Romantic Concerto. The latter is perhaps the musically more significant work, with sumptuous textures and cascading, glittering runs for the soloist put in service for an overall argument that actually comes across as pretty coherent. The Bochum Symphony Orchestra under Steven Sloane manages to achieve rich textures, varied colors and momentum and David Lively is a compelling soloists, though Hamelin with the BBC Scottish symphony orchestra under Osmo Vänskä definitely achieve a clearer focus.

For the concerto I would, in other words, go for the Hyperion release. Yet I wouldn’t want to miss Castelli Romani. Though a substantial work, it eschews the formal ambitions of the concerto in favor of pure tone painting. Indeed, it is hard not to hear it as a companion to Respighi’s Roman Trilogy – yet this is appealing music that never outstays its welcome, and despite the connection there is nothing derivative about Marx’s work. Once again the performances are very good – perhaps a little sharper focus, a little more emphasis on the overall argument (to the extent that it’s there), would not have hurt, but it really is a minor caveat. The sound is warm if a bit diffuse and in-your-face. Though Hamelin is even better in the concerto this release deserves an overall warm welcome.


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