If there exists an "inner circle" among musicians, whose artistry and probing interpretations set them apart for their profound musical insight, Irén Marik would be an integral member of this elect group. The discovery of such artistry reveals how history is a plastic entity which redefines itself by transforming one's understanding of tradition and culture. Marik's distinct voice brings us closer to Bartók, Liszt, and the other composers she devoted her life to. Serendipity played a major role in the retrieval of her obscured art.
A wooden cigar-store Indian once stood guard outside a dreary used record shop in New York on Eighth Avenue, a neighborhood then awash in Cuban-Chinese restaurants, dry cleaners, thrift stores, and one beacon of culture, a revival cinema, which ran a celebrated annual festival of Surrealist films; otherwise, Chelsea was dormant in 1978. The shop's elderly owner perched behind a coffee-stained counter, tending a newspaper as time drifted along. Nearly all of his recordings were of little or of absolutely no interest, the store itself a superfluity, a stagnant enigma. Towards the back, in the most forlorn corner of this outpost for irrelevant music, a stack of discs lay on the linoleum floor beside some bins, hardly noticeable in the weak fluorescent rays dimmed by layers of accumulated grime. This mound of some 20 identical records lacked jackets, their sleeves of a waxed paper intended for wrapping sandwiches. A hand-stenciled dragon "Draco" proclaimed a Liszt recital. The pianist was Hungarian, unknown, yet her repertoire would startle anyone aware of Liszt's music:
Bénédiction de Dieu dans le Solitude · Apparition no. 1 Berceuse · Vallée d'Obermann (first version)
"A dollar," the owner grunted. I took a copy home and listened. After the first notes, a vision came to mind: a slender young woman sat, playing, as Bartók leaned over her side, pointing to the score. Who was Irén Marik? Her Liszt playing had a sense of proportion like Sauer's, a tone which enlivened every note, a rhythm so solid that one sensed her pulse even in the silences, a clarity of musical form, magisterial phrasing which allowed less familiar works to be entirely grasped on one hearing. But who was Marik, was she alive?