The London Philharmonic Orchestra’s inventive programming has been heavily seasoned over the past week: Bridge’s Summer and Tchaikovsky’s Winter Daydreams on Wednesday; Kabalevsky’s Spring on Friday, along with traversals of all four seasons by Vivaldi and Glazunov. Tonight, it was mists and mellow fruitfulness, courtesy of two rarities. Respighi’s Poema autunnale, despite its promise of fauns and bacchantes, is largely meditative. For real Dionysian revelry, Joseph Marx’s Eine Herbstsymphonie – a spectacular 1922 work finally receiving its UK première – hit the spot, a lavish autumnal wallow, cloaked in Klimtian gold and crimson in an opulent reading under Vladimir Jurowski.

Julia Fischer © Felix Broede
Julia Fischer
© Felix Broede

Julia Fischer was the violin soloist in the Poema autunnale and in Ernest Chausson’s Poème, which opened the programme. After an introduction as cool as her turquoise gown, Fischer gradually turned up the heat, reaching towards Wagnerian warmth. Her tone is an ideal mix of sweetness and steel, unashamedly romantic, bending her back so far one feared she’d topple over. Eyes trained on Jurowski for much of the time, this was an assured reading.

Respighi’s orchestrations usually attract terms like “Hollywood” and “Technicolor”, so it was refreshing to hear him in more restrained mode in his Autumn Poem. After a wispy solo introduction, gnarled oboe and bassoon entwined in a melancholy theme. Double-stopped passages, firmly dispatched, led to something more bucolic before – in the score’s most remarkable section – harp and celesta sprinkled dewdrops onto the violin’s spidery glissando cobweb.

Joseph Marx completed his Autumn Symphony near Graz in November 1921. The première the following February, given by the Vienna Philharmonic under Felix Weingartner, was something of a scandal, with members of the audience trying to disrupt the performance with whistles and yells. Marx felt that people had taken against “the considerable modernity of its harmony and especially its orchestration”. It took a critical bashing, with a further performance in 1923 being dismissed in the Wiener Zeitung as “an unsymphonic symphony… a too monstrous work of a lyricist who is wrapped up in his music”. It found an advocate in conductor Clemens Krauss, but after 1927 the symphony went unperformed until 2005.

Vladimir Jurowski © Simon Jay Price
Vladimir Jurowski
© Simon Jay Price

Its silence is a mystery. The Herbstsymphonie certainly doesn’t conform to symphonic rules and it sprawls, but the same could be said for any number of Gustav Mahler’s which had preceded it. Marx’s orchestra is Mahlerian in size, requiring ten percussionists, but it’s rather Richard Strauss and Franz Schreker who provide the lush orchestral blueprint, possibly with touches of Scriabin – an intoxicating cocktail.

The rhapsodic first movement starts with rippling harps, but Marx ratchets the emotional temperature up to ecstatic pretty rapidly. A reminder of late summer, crickets chirrup and drowsy bumble bees drone past. A waltz itches to be released in the second movement, bursting with the sensuality of Daphnis et Chloé (Marx admired Ravel and invited him to teach in Vienna). Autumnal Thoughts, the third movement, cloys with Viennese cream, a rich tapestry of colour from silky clarinet to burnished brass. It’s the gaudy finale, though, where Marx goes completely overboard, launching a battery of percussion on a heady bacchanale that makes Strauss’ Dance of the Seven Veils sound positively restrained. Jurowski and the LPO tackled it all with unashamed glee, embracing its over-the-top surface glitter – anything requiring thunder sheet, castanets and rattling xylophone wins my approval. Once the wine barrel is drained, however, the symphony ends in crepuscular reverie, the LPO strings glowing.

Marx’s Autumn Symphony is never going to be a concert staple, but it deservedly won many friends this evening. The presence of microphones suggests it could reach a wider audience too.