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Alexander ZEMLINSKY (1871-1942)
Six Songs (lyrics: Maurice Maeterlinck) [21:20]:
(i. Die drei. schwestern, op. 13 [4:15]; ii. Die mädchen mit den verbundenen augen, op. 13 [3:17]; iii. Lied der jungfrau, op. 13 [2:56]; iv. Als ihr geliebter schied, op. 13 [2:35]; v. Und kehrt er einst heim, op. 13 [3:10]; vi. Sie kam zum schloss gegangen, op. 13 [ 5:07])
Erwin SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)

Menschheit (lyrics: Theodor Däubler):
(Der Dudelsack, op. 28 [5:15]; ii. Flügellahmer versuch, op. 28 [8:10]; iii. Oft einfach, op. 28 [2:44]; iv. Dämmerung, op. 28 [4:15]; v. Einblick, op. 28 [8:12])
Landschaften, (lyrics: Theodor Kuhlemann):
(Die Türen Sind Zugeweht, op. 26 [2:43]; ii. Alle Frauen Weinen, op. 26 [3:12]; iii. Demut Faltet Den Raum, op. 26 [3:55]; iv. Viele Wege Sind Kleine, Vergangene, op. 26 [2:20]; v. Die Goldnen Winde, op. 26 [3:34])
Randi Stene (mezzo)
Trondheim Symphony Orchestra/Muhai Tang
rec. 14-18 June 2004. Olavshallen, Trondheim, Norway. DDD
SIMAX PSC 1249 [65:41]

Sound Sample
Opening of Einblick
Sound samples are removed after two months

These songs with orchestra receive a rapturous performance and recording.

Zemlinsky's Six Maeterlinck Songs will please any lover of sumptuous late late-romantic music. They will bring an especial glow if you warm to Mahler's Das lied von der Erde or Zemlinsky's own Lyrische Symphonie or Bantock's Sappho Fragments or Bax's Dehmel settings or Griffes' Fiona MacLeod songs.

The orchestration is luxurious and evinces great artistry in conjuring textures both diaphanous and densely eruptive. There is nothing minimalist about this music and that is patent from the first song Die drei schwestern which is nothing less than a dramatic scena reeking with petrol-vapour flammability. Its essence is operatic rather like Sibelius's big orchestral songs including Count Magnus. The other songs are more contented and scored with breathtaking dreamy beauty - try Lied der jungfrau but could equally well be operatic. The more restful songs, which are in the ascendancy after the ripeness and smoking emotion of Die Drei schwestern, also recall the orchestral songs of Delius and Czeslaw Marek.

Zemlinsky accounts for only 22 minutes of this disc’s 65 minutes. The rest is down to two works called 'symphony for voice and orchestra' by Erwin Schulhoff. Prague-born Schulhoff allied his early style with that of Mahler in late-romantic affluence. He emerged from the Great War with his style undergoing metamorphosis - rather like Frank Bridge - except that Bridge was an appalled spectator to the war rather than a participant. The immediate post-war years from which these two works derive had not yet seen the change but it was in train. He was gradually to move to a sparer, more jazz-orientated style. His politics were to change to communism, he was to become a Soviet citizen and he was to die at Wurzburg concentration camp. These two symphonies are rapturously sad utterances. Schulhoff's writing is broadly in the same territory as Zemlinsky although he is a shade less sumptuous in his orchestral textures – for example in the case of Menschheit. There is a greater transparency about Schulhoff’s writing as well as a willingness to embrace various shades of dissonance. Even so the trumpeting end of Der Dudelsack has impressive majesty. Schulhoff was clearly at this stage in his life more of a Mahler epigone than Zemlinsky. Catchy little trudging motifs instantly recall Mahler. Yet he is closer to conveying emotional contentment than it appears Mahler ever was. Unrest troubles even the most seraphic pages in Mahler - Mahler could never have written the carefree and uncomplicated Oft einfach (tr. 9). The finale song of Menschheit is Einblick which is mournful and charged with regret. Nevertheless it rises to a sumptuously sorrowing peak and with mountainously tragic brass-calls sinks back with a sort of agonised repletion. Superb stuff!

Landschaften is half the length of Menschheit. Die Türen is more operatic, in the manner of Zemlinsky's Die drei schwestern - even Wagnerian. However the textures and the elusive haunted and haunting mood returns for Alle frauen weinen and Demut faltet den Raum. Lucidly pleasing solos often reach out to the listener in these two symphonic song-cycles. This is also true of the harp part at the start of the last song Die goldne Wind which is stormily Mahlerian and drenched in tragic grandeur. These songs are powder kegs of emotionality.

The booklet is in English only but much to my surprise reproduces neither the original words nor translations. The background notes however are extensive and rewarding as you would expect from Malcolm Macdonald whose work for neglected music through the pages of Tempo has been ceaseless.

Randi Stene and the orchestra are magnificent in these gloriously emotion saturated songs.

Rob Barnett



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