Karl Marx (1897-1985)

Music researchers of the world, unite! Today in our series RISM A-Z we're going to talk about Karl Marx–that's right, the Bavarian composer and choral conductor!*

Our Karl Marx was born in 1897 in Munich, meaning he was rife for military service when World War I broke out. He was conscripted in 1917 and was placed in the same regiment as his almost exact contemporary Carl Orff (1895-1982). Both were ultimately sent to different arenas, and Marx was captured by the British near Ypres shortly before the war ended. One year later, Marx was released and returned to Munich. Gudrun Staub, in one of the rare monographs about Marx, relates a remarkable coincidence that happened just two days after Marx's return: while waiting in line for tickets to Verdi's Requiem, Marx bumped into Orff, who was also standing in line. That is how Marx became Orff's first student.

Thanks to Orff's lessons, Marx was well equipped to take up studies at the Munich Academy of Music, and staying in music educational institutions accompanied the rest of Marx's career as a teacher and composer. After further studies, Marx taught at the Academy, was at the Conservatory in Graz during World War II (where his output included songs for the Hitler Youth and other Nazi functions), and completed his teaching career at the Hochschule für Musik in Stuttgart. Marx died in Stuttgart in 1985.

Karl Marx's music manuscripts are preserved today at the Bavarian State Library and the collection has been cataloged entirely in RISM. There are 541 records for his works in the RISM catalog, most of them autographs or partial autographs. Marx's first published work was for chorus, and vocal pieces characterize his compositions: among the manuscripts are 120 partsongs, 79 canons, Lieder, and cantatas.

Recordings of Marx's music are not readily available online, but here is a piano arrangement of Marx's Herbstlied (RISM ID no. 453501516):



*Yes, RISM also has the "other" Karl Marx (1818-1883), whose words are used in two sources by Karl Amadeus Hartmann.



Image: Analysis of Marx's music, in Ralf von Saalfeld, "Karl Marx," Zeitschrift für Musik 98 (1931), p. 336, from archive.org.




Category: RISM A-Z

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