Several years ago I heard the first recording of orchestral music of Joseph Marx (1882-1964) and fell in love with it. Among other influences, his music sometimes reminds me of Respighi; Marx's mother, a pianist, was Italian and I repeatedly hear Italianate influences in his music, especially the Second Piano Concerto. Since that first purchase I've gotten most of the extant modern recordings of his music, including the 'Natur-Trilogie' performance by Stephen Sloane and the Bochum Symphony Orchestra Joseph Marx: Nature Trilogy, two-thirds of which is recorded on this present disc. There is little to choose between these two recordings. It sounds like the Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien is somewhat larger and has somewhat more lustrous strings, but both performances of the Nature Trilogy are fine.
But the big news here is the reported first recording of the 25-minute-long 1946 'Feste in Herbst' ('Feasts in Autumn') which describes the autumn grape harvest and attendant festivities. It was Marx's first orchestral work in fifteen years and is a recasting of the final movement of Marx's gargantuan 1925 'Herbstsymphonie' (which still has not been commercially recorded). This later work is shorter, for smaller (now only regular-sized) orchestra, and has a number of newly composed sections. It begins with a musical description of vineyard workers harvesting the grapes; it includes a section based on a round sung by those workers followed by a reminiscence of the first theme of the Herbstsymphonie's first movement. There is considerable bitonality here; this is not the sassy bitonality of Milhaud but rather a means of creating a sonic scrim through which the bustling of the workers is heard. It reminds me of similar passages in the orchestral sound of Martinu. There is a swelling lyrical section followed by rustic dance rhythms laced with ingenious polyphonic writing. A lovely lyrical passage with horns and divided strings leads into the second main section of the work which has lush string-dominated passages that become paeans of joy and praise. The work fades away in a tender pianissimo. The Viennese orchestra under Johannes Wildner play with suavity and élan.
If you are interested only in the Nature Trilogy and don't have the ASV recording, I'd suggest you get it. And if you already have that disc and are interested in the newly recorded work, the 'Feasts of Autumn', you must buy this one. It's really worth it for those of us who have come to treasure Marx's brand of late Romanticism mixed with impressionism and evocative orchestration.