Notes and Editorial Reviews
Piano Sonata in B?.
Rondo Brillant. Variations on a Finnish Song. Song Without Words. 3 Romanci. Variations on an Old German Folksong. Pièces fugitives:
Anthony Spiri (pn)
CPO 777 319-2 (57:35)
Anthony Spiri’s devotion to the music of Marxsen is evident from the above interview. It is also etched in sound, in the form of this beautiful disc. Spiri opts to begin in virtuoso fashion, with the op. 9
The piece was successful (it was published in Hamburg, Leipzig, and Pisek in what is now the Czech Republic), and it is not difficult to hear why. The theme is absolutely charming, and Spiri injects it with a tremendous charm via a touch that is most appealing. The coda is, if I can get away with this description without sounding patronizing, sweet, in the most positive, appealing way possible. The
Variations on a Finnish Song
are part of the two sets of characteristic variations that form Marxsen’s op. 67. A kantele is a Finnish five-string zither, and Marxsen imitates the plucking with lovely spread chords. The lovely, plaintive theme is subjected to a series of remarkably inventive variations. The temptation is to call them”Brahmsian,” but that of course is our ears hearing the origins of some of Brahms’s techniques. The brief
Lied ohne Worte
(published in 1829 and a hybrid of Mendelssohn and Brahms) is fascinating in the way Marxsen plays with harmonic shadows and overcloudings.
Although Marxsen admired Beethoven and Schubert’s piano sonatas, he wrote only a few himself. The Sonata, op. 7, is lost, but the op. 8 is included here. It is intended for teaching purposes and lasts only eight minutes. It begins with a fast rather than a slow introduction (a trait that is apparently typical of Marxsen). Spiri’s finger clarity in the first movement is of the first rank; the long right-hand melody of the slow movement initially seems related to Clementi; the sweet finale is very characterfully played by Spiri.
(1832) certainly show the influence of the bel canto of Donizetti and Rossini. The Siciliano of the second is particularly appealing, while the third makes overt reference to Donizetti’s “Una furtiva lagrima,” and is all the richer for it. Spiri’s tender, eminently musical delivery is most effective. The first part of op. 67 is a set of variations on the old German folk song
. The rhythmic alternations of twos and threes must surely have appealed to Marxsen, and the result is consistently fascinating. Rhythms are almost stuttering in their effect (the 12th variation actually has the hands playing in different meters). Finally, the
Trois Pièces fugitives
of around 1839: Marxsen makes use of 5/8 meter to good effect. There is a distinct experimental slant to these miniatures. In context it is fair to say that they approach the shocking.
The recording (Stuttgart Chamber Music Studio) is of the top rank. In summary, this is a fascinating disc that the curious should urgently seek out. It is rare to find a recording that simultaneously illuminates one’s wider listening while providing so many sensory delights. Such a find is to be celebrated.
FANFARE: Colin Clarke
Works on This Recording
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