IRÉN MARIK: FROM MOZART TO MESSIAEN • Irén Marik (pn); John Ranck (pn)1 • ARBITER 152 (2 CDs: 158:32)
DEBUSSY Préludes: La cathédrale engloutie; Ondine; Voiles; General Lavine—eccentric; Les fées sont d’exquises danseuses; La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune; Le vent dans la plaine; Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest; Les collines d’Anacapri. Images: Read more class="ARIAL12i">Reflets dans l’eau. Suite bergamasque: Clair de lune. BARTÓK Mikrokosmos: No. 135, Perpetuum mobile. MESSIAEN Visions de l’amen.1 LISZT Concert Etudes—Un Sospiro. Piano Sonata in b, S. 178. MOZART Rondo in D, K 485. BEETHOVEN Piano Sonata No. 24. SCHUBERT Impromptu in B?, D 935/3. BRAHMS Intermezzo in E?, op. 117/1. SCHUMANN Fantasiestücke, op. 12: Des Abends; Aufschwung
So-called “discoveries” frequently aren’t, as many a record collector will know only too well. How refreshing, therefore, to encounter a real example of a pianist who, until Arbiter began its excellent series of reissues (of recordings on the little-known Draco Records) and first issues, was all but unknown. The Hungarian-born pianist Irén Marik has already been accorded two previous Arbiter issues: “Bartók in the Desert” (Arbiter 149) and “From Bach to Bartók: Recordings 1956–1983” (Arbiter 153). Marik was, in fact a student of Bartók (she spent around six months with him as a pupil), although in an interview (reprinted in the liner notes to Volume 1) she downplays what she learned from him.
Marik came to America in around 1946 to give concerts. A perfectionist, she found herself with a select band of admirers, one of whom, Evelyn Eaton, formed Draco Records exclusively to preserve her art. Volume 1 of the present series includes a list, as complete as possible, of works recorded and known to have been performed by the pianist. This list ranges from Byrd, Louis Couperin, and Chambonnières to MacDowell, Tcherepnin, Halsey Stevens, and, of course, Bartók. Bartók, in fact, is common to all three volumes, although here he is only heard in a brief, 1:13 Perpetuum mobile, which Marik manages to make dance.
It is difficult to know what to recommend most here, Debussy or Messiaen. Marik is joined by John Ranck (1915–2005) for Messiaen’s Visions de l’amen. Recorded around 1956, Ranck plays the first, more active part, while Marik delivers the more plainchant-inspired second part. It is an excellent performance, fully deserving to sit next to the composer’s own (with Loriod), Argerich/Rabinovich and Ogden/Lucas (Fanfare 30:2). Marik and Ranck bring a real sense of wonder to the initial “Amen de la création.” Rhythms are strongly marked in “Amen des étoiles, de la planète à l’anneau.” If “Amen de l’agonie de Jésus” could invoke more of a sense of space, the ensuing “Amen du désir” is very intimate (almost sexy!), and does achieve a religious ecstasy towards its end. Perhaps the penultimate “Amen du jugement” could be even gruffer, and there are a couple of drop-outs (0:41 and again at 1:16). But Messiaen’s vision shines brightly throughout.
The fifth movement of the Messiaen is actually the most perfumed here, and it is this sense of atmosphere that characterizes Malik’s Debussy (“Voiles” and “Les fées” in particular). “Ondine” emerges out of an underwater haze, gorgeously balanced, and there is a simply sublime touch to “La terrasse,” accompanied by a real depth of sound. Note the Debussy Prélude recordings date variously from 1952, 1973, and 1981.
The first disc comprises Debussy Préludes and the Messiaen separated by the brief Bartók. The second disc is a little more bitty, but still presents two full sonatas. Marik’s Liszt is tremendous, all the more so when one considers it was recorded at home in one take! The Sospiro acts as lovely preparation (a gorgeous bed of sound here) before Marik presents a considered Sonata that steadfastly concentrates on the mysterious rather than the virtuoso. Her grasp of Lisztian lyricism and sound is beyond criticism. Many a youngling pianist would do well to listen to this before embarking on adding yet another speed-record-breaking version to the catalog. Both Liszt works were recorded in July 1975.
Interestingly, Marik is more rhythmically interventionist in the Beethoven op. 78 (there is the occasional finger slip here, too). It is in the Schubert (glittering articulation) and in her idiomatic, dark Brahms that Marik is richly rewarding. The Schumann pieces contrast the floating melody of “Des Abends,” held aloft by its supporting ambigous harmonies with an “Aufschwung” that could perhaps be more dynamic.
Occasional patches of distortion are more than tolerable, given the importance of this issue. Fully continuing the fascination value of its predecessors, this volume documenting Marik’s art is most welcome.