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Alexander ZEMLINSKY (1871-1942)
Die Seejungfrau (1902-3) [38.51]
Symphony in D minor (1892-93) [31.31]
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra/Antony Beaumont
rec. Dvořák Hall, Rudolfinum, Prague, 12-14, 22-23 Mar 2003. DDD

CHANDOS CHAN 10138 [70.23]

Could I refer you to Ian Lace's excellent piece on Seejungfrau. By way of background I can add nothing. In relation to the music I would want to highlight the gorgeous dazzle of bird song and sea movement in the first of the three parts at 4.43. The music has the voluptuous inspirational confidence of Korngold's Sinfonietta. There is a distinctly Wagnerian melos at the start of II with those wailing and groaning horns. All the textures are captured with breathtaking clarity (try at 0.40 to 1.10 in the second section). The third episode is rather Sibelian in a world of twilit sun - bleached and ochre. The whole work is bathed in a contented glow - wonderfully sustained. The work is sub-titled ‘fantasy for orchestra’ and that it certainly is.

This is the second version of Seejungfrau that Chandos have in their catalogue. I have not heard the Dausgaard version but it was well reviewed at the time and Ian Lace thinks very highly of it. There is also the Chailly (Decca) version from the early 1980s. I know the Chailly. It is a more opulently vigorous approach than Beaumont's. Beaumont allows the work to breathe the salt air and take in the seascapes. You takes your choice.

The Symphony is from another and earlier milieu showing a delicate interplay of superbly orchestrated melodic lines. It is full of rhythmic intrigue and a joyous spirit which places it somewhere between Dvořák's Seventh and Eighth symphonies (sample the lilt and smile of the finale tr.7) and Tchaikovsky's suites. The eminence given to the writing for the woodwind registers strongly. There is a hint of Miaskovsky in the section from 5.02 onwards in the finale. This is a lovely unassuming work majoring on idyll rather than storm-clouds. It pairs neatly enough with Fibich's Second Symphony although Zemlinsky handles his material with more transparency than his Bohemian counterpart.

This disc forms a natural complement not only to the Lyric Symphony disc which is volume 1 on Chandos but also to the Nimbus CD of NI 5682 which includes the later early Symphony in B flat (1897), the Prelude to the opera Es War Einmal (1899) and the Sinfonietta (1934) performed by same forces and recorded at the Dvořák Hall, Rudolfinum in Prague on 18-20 Jan 2001.

Rob Barnett

see also review by Ian Lace


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