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5/5 stars

More enchantment from Marx

This is another very valuable issue from ASV.

The two piano concertos on this disc come from a composer whose works will rapidly become part of your musical mind, if you let them. Marx has been dead for forty years now and, as any composer will gloomily tell you, that is about the time it takes for the musical public to come round to recognizing a master writer for what he is.

This composer took late romantic writing to a point of sensual fervour beyond which further development would be hard to imagine. His music is awash with lovely tunes bathed in sensual,sometimes erotic, harmony: a combination guaranteed to cast its spell on the listener. The two concertos recorded by David Lively on this disc do just that.

The Romantisches Klavierkonzert has, as far as I know, been recorded twice before: Jorge Bolet, one of the 20th century's great pianists, made a recording that has never been issued commercially; presumably it is only a matter of time before that is put right. The Hyperion concerto series features an astonishing performance by Marc-André Hamelin which carries all before it, whirling the listener away in dazzling technique and a grand conception of the piece which is irresistable. It flares with dazzling and infectious excitement and emotion.

David Lively takes a more measured view, perhaps allowing some more time for many to revel in the detail of the piece. He is very well accompanied and excellently recorded and he plays very well too. The great bonus of this new disc is the addition of his recording of Castelli Romani, the second piano concerto.

Those of you who set some store by the colour imparted to music by the use of different keys will note that the Concerto is in E major and Castelli Romani in E flat major: this choice is a telling one. Keys only a semitone apart always give a contrasting character to music; and they tend to colour the way the composer writes, for many different reasons. E major is know for clarity and directness, and E flat for warmth and roundness. Some composers saw E flat as an heroic key: Beethoven, Liszt and Richard Strauss certainly did. Look out for this in these two pieces, therefore, and see if you can feel the contrast.

Castelli Romani inhabits something of the world of Respighi's three suites: the "Pines", "Fountains" and "Festivals" of Rome. Marx walks the same road, but in his own way. Listeners lucky enough to have access to a recording of Respighi's "Concerto in Modo Misolidio" will see why I hasten to add that the two men's approach to the piano concerto is very different, however; Respighi writes more stringily, creates a tougher skein on his loom.

Marx creates a piece awash with sunny southern sound and monumental piano writing and I can only recommend this disc wholeheartedly to the listener. Like the Romantisches Klavierkonzert, the later piece stretches the player greatly: you will find only a few pieces in the repertoire to revel quite as these do in the way the whole of the compass of the piano is used for colour: Marx revels in all the sonority the instrument can offer.

Michael J. A. Brough

June 8, 2005

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