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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Nice Find for Piano Lovers

Joseph MARX (1882-1964)

Six Pieces for Piano (1916) [50:05]
Herbst-Legende (undated) [5:05]
Carneval (undated) [2:46}
Canzone (undated) [2:54]
Die Flur der Engel [3:43]

Tonya Lemoh (piano)

Recorded July 2006 in the concert hall of the Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus, Denmark.

CHANDOS 10479 [54:38]

Tonya Lemoh has brought some intricate and fascinating music back to life in this recording of Joseph Marx’ Six Pieces for Piano from 1916. A staunch conservative, Marx became one of Vienna’s most respected theory and composition professors after the Second World War, but his music, except for several collections of songs, would take some years to come to light. His monumental Eine Herbstsymphonie was premiered by no less a master conductor than Felix Weingartner in 1922, and would lay inexplicably silent until 2005.

An unashamed romantic, Marx was completely convinced, contrary to his contemporary Arnold Schoenberg, that traditional western tonality still held the key to artistic expression through music. With the explosion of the twelve-tone system of composition between the world wars, Marx found himself on the receiving end of frequent criticism for his conservatism. Only in the years since his death has he come to be appreciated for his original and highly polished compositional style.

The Six Pieces open with a Rhapsodie, cast in three sections. Structurally, we are reminded of Brahms, and harmonically one can hear Reger and even Mahler, except in the case of Marx, the ideas are kept in tighter control and the listener has a definite feeling of actually going somewhere. The Prelude and Fugue are remarkable for their contrapuntal intricacies. The Arabeske was undoubtedly influenced by Ravel and Debussy with its dreamy arpeggios and its somewhat elusive and jazzy harmony. The closing Ballade is a serious and somewhat melancholy work very Lisztian in its virtuosity.

The recital is rounded out with five unpublished and undated works: a quirky Humoreske rife with odd ball twists of harmony and rhythmic jauntiness; a solemn and surprisingly dramatic Herbst-Legende; a delightfully dreamy little night piece deceptively named Carneval; a beautifully lyrical Canzone that is reminiscent of Chopin and Die Flur der Engel, a quiet and beautiful miniature tone poem for piano.

Australian born Tonya Lemoh has thought this music through thoroughly and as has arrived at interpretations that are the perfect complement to the works. She delivers deft and fleet finger work where necessary, is very conscious of balance and voicing in the contrapuntal works, and for the sheer romantic pieces, she provides a rich, sonorous tone. This music is a real find, and Ms. Lemoh is an outstanding ambassador for it.