David Lively

Joseph Marx: The Piano Concertos

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This disc of two piano concertos is the fourth of ASV's series of the complete orchestral works of Austrian composer Joseph Marx. These should suit those who love rich, passionate, Romantic music more than anything else. The Romantic Piano Concerto is just that: a Romantic-era sounding concerto with a virtuoso piano part, although it does have unmistakably twentieth century harmony similar to that of Rachmaninov. In fact, it is Rachmaninov's concertos that this one is most like -- however, in a major key rather than a minor one -- but Marx's concerto isn't as well-crafted and his melodies are not as immediately memorable. It could easily be overly melodramatic, but pianist David Lively and conductor Steven Sloane manage to keep it moving along reasonably. Lively is comfortable no matter what flourishes and impressive sparklers are called for in Marx's writing. The Castelli Romani is structured like a concerto, with the fast-slow-fast movement pattern, and its melodies and modal harmonies are a little more attention getting. It definitely (by Marx's admission) owes something to Respighi's Fountains of Rome and Pines of Rome. Marx's decision to use the combination of piano soloist and orchestra also brings to mind Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain. There is character and atmosphere in each movement, each depicting a specific landscape. The piano is much more of a soloist in the Castelli Romani than in the concerto, still with virtuoso displays of technique. Lively and Sloane do a very creditable job with Marx's music, though the recording's sound could be warmer, but even so, there isn't quite enough in the music itself to keep the listener coming back for more.

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