Joseph Marx: Piano Concertos/Lively

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 7

Simon Rattle once deemed Messiaen’s Turangalila Symphony “a Mars bar of a piece”. If that’s the case, Joseph Marx’s seductive early-20th century Romantic vocabulary wraps Delius’ sensual landscapes, Rachmaninov’s swirling keyboard idiom, Korngold’s fluid authority, and the chiaroscuro effect of Respighi’s orchestral palette in a bear hug big enough to embrace Willy Wonka’s entire chocolate empire. Indeed, the spirit of Respighi’s Roman Trilogy liberally seeps through the three-movement Castelli Romani, recorded here for the first time.

Conductor Steven Sloane and the Bochum Symphony Orchestra admirably brave this relatively uncharted territory. They suavely negotiate the first movement’s nearly continuous tempo fluctuations along with the gradual dramatic build in the march-like section. Also note the delicately blended soft brass and woodwind at the beginning of the central slow movement. Piano soloist David Lively is a solid and secure technician and every ounce the colorist this music needs, whether in the outer movements’ gnarly unaccompanied stretches or in the cascading backdrops that give way to the orchestra’s foreground presence (toward the slow movement’s conclusion). However, I could envision a more impetuous and sharply characterized finale on both orchestra and soloist’s part, together with more atmospheric, vibrantly detailed engineering.

These are precisely the virtues that rank Hyperion’s premiere recording of the Romantic Piano Concerto under Osmo Vanskä far and above ASV’s newer contender. Yet even in the face of Hyperion soloist Marc-André Hamelin’s stupefying proficiency, David Lively’s softer-grained virtuosity holds its own, notably in the broader introspection and greater harmonic awareness he brings to the slow movement. Incidentally, for an altogether different interpretation, I’ve long treasured Jorge Bolet’s aristocratic, elegantly expansive 1982 New York Philharmonic broadcast with Zubin Mehta, and hope it will someday be published. In any event, collectors who hang around the concerto repertoire’s bountiful outskirts surely will enjoy getting to know these ingratiating works.

Buy Now from Arkiv Music

Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Romantic Piano Concerto: Hamelin (Hyperion)

JOSEPH MARX - Romantic Piano Concerto (1919-20); Castelli Romani for Piano & Orchestra

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