Joseph Marx

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Marx in 1912

Joseph Rupert Rudolf Marx (11 May 1882 – 3 September 1964) was an Austrian composer, teacher and critic.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Marx was born in Graz and pursued studies in philosophy, art history, German studies, and music at Graz University, earning several degrees including a doctorate in 1909. His thesis was an expansion of a 1907 scholarly study of tonality, in which he coined the term "atonality".[2] He began composing seriously in 1908 and over the next four years he produced around 120 songs. In 1914 he joined the faculty of the Vienna Music Academy, later becoming the institution's director in 1922. When the school was reorganized as the Hochschule für Musik in 1924 he was appointed to the position of rector, holding that post for three years. Some of his notable students include Johann Nepomuk David, Richard Flury, Ivana Lang, Alois Melichar, Hisatada Otaka, Lucijan Marija Škerjanc, Paul Ulanowsky and Clara Wildschut. From 1931 to 1938 he was music critic for the Neues Wiener Journal and following World War II he was critic for the Wiener Zeitung.[1]

A collection of Marx's criticisms and essays, Betrachtungen eines romantischen Realisten was published in Vienna in 1947. Just before he died he published a book on acoustics, tonality, aesthetics and musical philosophy entitled Weltsprache Musik (Vienna, 1964).[1]

As a composer Marx is chiefly remembered for his vocal music, particularly his more than 150 lieder. Although most of his songs used piano accompaniment, about two dozen of them used symphonic accompaniment. His style is characterized by Slavonic and Italian elements, often with an impressionistic kind of lyricism. His output in the 1920s and early 1930s was focused on orchestral works, followed by a period devoted primarily to chamber music for the remainder of his career.[1] In an interview given to Elyse Mach ("Great Contemporary Pianists Speak for Themselves"; Dover Books on Music), Jorge Bolet said that the "Romantic Piano Concerto" by Joseph Marx was his favorite among the great virtuoso concertos because of the enormous show of strength required from the soloist.

Marx died in his home city of Graz, aged 82.


Marx at 21 years old (1903)

Joseph Marx was mostly known for his significant contributions to the late Romantic and early modernist music eras. During his time in Vienna, Marx studied composition under the guidance of prominent composers such as Alexander von Zemlinsky and Guido Adler. He also became influenced by the works of Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, whose rich and lush musical language had a lasting impact on his own compositions. Some of his notable compositions during this period include:

  • Symphony No. 1 in E Major Op. 26: This was Marx's first composition in reflections to the influence of late romantic composers like Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler.
  • Herbstsymphonie (Autumn Symphony) in E Major, Op: 44: This symphony, completed in 1919, is one of Marx's most renowned works. It captures the autumnal atmosphere with lush harmonies and evocative orchestration.
  • "Nature's Pilgramage" (Natur-Trilogie): A Trilogy of orchestral symphonic poems including "Frühling" (Spring) Op. 63, "Herbst" (Autumn) Op. 66, and "Winter" Op. 67. These pieces vividly depict the changing seasons and showcase Marx's skill in orchestration.

Vocal works[edit]

Choral music:

  • Ein Neujahrshymnus (A New Year's Hymn) for mixed chorus and orchestra (1914)
  • Berghymne (Mountain Hymn) for mixed chorus and orchestra (1910)
  • Herbstchor an Pan (Autumn Chorus to Pan) for mixed chorus, boys' chorus, organ and orchestra (1911)
  • Morgengesang (Morning Chant) for male chorus and orchestra (1910)
  • Abendweise (Evening Melody) for male chorus, brass orchestra, timpani and organ (1912)
  • Gesang des Lebens (Song of Life) for male chorus and organ (1914)

Songs/Orchestral songs

  • approx. 150 Lieder such as Nachtgebet and Marienlied, two dozen of which are also available as orchestral songs
  • Verklärtes Jahr (Transfigured Year) for medium voice and orchestra (orchestral song cycle, 1932, also available with piano accompaniment)

Instrumental works[edit]

Orchestral music:

  • Eine Herbstsymphonie (Autumn Symphony, 1921)
  • Eine symphonische Nachtmusik (Symphonic Night Music, 1922)
  • Idylle - Concertino über die pastorale Quart (1925)
  • Eine Frühlingsmusik (Spring Music, 1925)
  • Nordland-Rhapsodie (Nordic Rhapsody, 1929)
  • Alt-Wiener Serenaden (Old Vienna Serenades, 1941)
  • Sinfonia in modo classico for string orchestra (1944)
  • Partita in modo antico for string orchestra (1945)
  • Feste im Herbst (Autumnal Revelries, 1946)


  • "Romantic Piano Concerto" in E major (1919–20)
  • "Castelli Romani" for piano and orchestra in E-flat major (1929–30)

Other works[edit]

  • Six piano pieces (1916)
  • String Quartet in A major (1936, rev. in 1948 as Quartetto Chromatico)
  • Quartetto in modo antico (1938)
  • Quartetto in modo classico (1941)
  • Two violin sonatas
  • Works for cello and piano
  • "Trio-Phantasie"
  • Three works for piano quartet
  • Organ pieces[2]
  • Unpublished piano pieces
  • Works for voice and chamber ensemble


  1. ^ a b c d Sadie, Stanley, ed. (1992). The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, article by Mosco Carner and Sigrid Wiesmann, vol. 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-522186-2.
  2. ^ a b Berkant Haydin, Stefan Esser (Joseph Marx Society, 2009). Chandos, liner notes to "Joseph Marx: Orchestral Songs and Choral Works. Retrieved 23 October 2014

External links[edit]