Scherzo in d minor for Piano Quartet
Joseph Marx (1882-1964) was born in Austrian provincial capital of Graz. He studied violin, cello and piano at Grazís Buwa's Music School and then attended Graz University where he took degrees in philosophy and art history, all the while composing music. In the realm of composition, he was largely self-taught. Most of his compositions at this time were art songs, or Lieder, and gained him a wide audience, so much so, that he was hailed the successor to Schubert, and Hugo Wolf as a song composer. On the strength of these works, he obtained the position of professor of theory at the Vienna Music Academy (Hochschule fur Musik) and later served as its rector. He also was an adviser to the Turkish government in laying the foundations of a conservatory in Ankara.
Marx's music drew from many sources. He could be called a late romantic impressionist. Although one can hear certain affinities with the music of Debussy, Scriabin, Delius, Ravel, Respighi, Jongen, Richard Strauss, Reger, Korngold, Brahms, Mahler and Bruckner, his sound is nonetheless his own.
In 1911, at the age of 29, just about the time he finished writing most of his Lieder, he composed three substantial works for Piano Quartet: Rhapsodie, Scherzo and Ballade. Although one might conclude from the titles that these works would be on a modest scale, this is not the case. They are full blown and equal in length to any so-called standard three or four movement work. The Scherzo in d minor is written on a large scale, comparable in length and breadth to a symphonic scherzo by Bruckner or Mahler and in many ways related to those. Some critics have called the Rhapsodie and Scherzo symphonic works pared down to the size of a piano quartet. Almost from the opening measures, the music strains at the boundaries of chamber music and sports a very symphonic quality. This a highly original and imaginative work with powerful contrasts and moving dramatic episodes.
We are pleased to reintroduce powerful and highly effective work, long unavailable. It truly deserves concert hall performance and should not be missed by experienced amateurs.