Bartok in the Desert: The Art of Irén Marik


2004 release. The first release of a legendary Bartók pupil's private recordings. After finding a coverless vinyl record on the floor of a dark, dingy used record store, Arbiter initiated a hunt to trace Irén Marik, whose Liszt playing dwelled above everyone else's, even those of his own pupils. As the first notes played, a vision arose of a serious middle-aged woman seated at a piano, playing with an impeccably straight back as Bartók stood by her, commenting while he listened. After five years of fruitless searching and dead ends, another LP suddenly appeared in a music shop, this time bearing a cover (her photo closely resembled the vision); this LP had a letter tucked inside via a slit cut in the plastic sealing, which had not been read by a prominent New York Times critic who received it a decade earlier and had no idea of its presence when he decided to clear his desk. Her town of Independence, California listed Marik in their phone directory. Arbiter reached her, and she acknowledged that she was playing, teaching, and, yes, had studied with Bartók. A week later Arbiter flew from New York to LA and caught a Greyhound bus to head into a six-hour traversal of desert and rocky terrain. Marik played like a goddess, cooked like a goddess, and opened her home and archives. Arbiter eventually gained access to a collection of over 100 hours of recordings and chose the most extraordinary for Marik's first CD release. If one compares her playing with Bartók's, the conception is extremely similar, with differences in stylistic flourishes. This set covers her finest Liszt and Bartók, as well as compositions by Brahms, Beethoven, Bach, Debussy, Ravel, Chopin, Schubert, Haydn, Zoltán Kodály, and Jean-Baptiste Lully. It's as if we reached Bartók himself in the desert, channeled through Marik. "Just the range of repertoire is impressive: Marik spins blithely through Bartók's Rondo No. 1 on Folk Themes, devours Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 30, and plays Liszt's 'Apparitions' in bursts of hyperclarity, as if she's trying to pin down an elusive ghost. ... Discovered by Allan Evans, the founder of Arbiter Records, a label that specializes in obscure pianists, Marik symbolizes something truly rare: an artist pursuing music not for fame or fortune or other external rewards, but for the all-consuming love of it." --1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die