Joseph Marx, a composer from Graz, Austria, cultivated a style that drew both on the dense counterpoint of Reger and on influences from the south and west. The three piano quartets here, all written in 1911, are not really impressionistic; nor do they much resemble the music of Respighi, whom Marx admired. In fact, they don't much resemble anything else under the sun, which is reason enough to seek out this release. Each work is in a single movement and from its title might be taken for salon music, but in fact all three pieces are weighty indeed. The final 17-plus-minute Ballade is arguably a lost masterpiece. It opens with a long Bachian theme for cello alone, leading one to expect an essay in chromatic counterpoint. Indeed, the structure of the work depends on a typically expansive late Romantic elaboration of the materials of the fugue initiated by the theme, but the music feels different from Reger; it is more transparent, more varied, a bit less chromatic, and more dependent on texture. It is in this last realm that the influence of the Impressionists can be felt. The Scherzo in D minor is full of frisky pianistic themes that Reger wouldn't have been caught dead writing. The opening Rhapsody in A major reveals a fine melodist with plenty of warmth. Highly recommended for chamber groups wanting to spring unknown music of high quality on their audiences and for any lover of Romantic chamber music. This is one of the periodic great successes notched by the German label CPO, which specializes in music by neglected composers, many of them from the German-speaking world. Long-winded but informative booklet notes are in English, German, and French.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim