Zemlinsky Lyric Symphony reviewed on MusicWeb International
); Gielen (Arte Nova
); Eschenbach (Capriccio
); Conlon (EMI Classics
); Beaumont (Chandos
); Chailly (Decca
The poetry of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) has been a draw to more than a few composers: John Alden Carpenter (Gitanjali Songs
, 1917), Rued Langgaard (Gitanjali-Hymner
), Frank Bridge (Three songs
for voice and orchestra H164), Manuel Ponce (Three Songs of Tagore
for low voice and orchestra, 1933), Arthur Meulemanns (De Hovenier
, 1923), John Foulds, Edgar Bainton (Garden Songs
), Franco Alfano (Three poems) and Edvin Kallstenius (Sångoffer
for baritone and orchestra). More recently there have been settings by Karl Korte (May the sun bless us
), Bernard Stevens (Hymn to Light
), Naresh Sohal and Jonathan Harvey. I’d be interested to learn of any others.
Tagore’s writings chimed with the intellectual spirit of the times well beyond the Indian sub-continent and won him worldwide acclaim as well as the Nobel prize for literature in 1913. He was knighted by the British government in 1915 but - a staunch friend of Gandhi - he surrendered the title as a protest against British policies in India.
The present recording still has a great deal to offer. Something under three-quarters of an hour for a CD is abstemious even for a bargain price offering but we would do well not to dismiss it for that reason.
The original LP arrived on the scene in the earliest days of the Zemlinsky revival and that it appeared on Deutsche Grammophon was a sign of Zemlinsky’s growing recognition. Before that DG had also recorded the four string quartets with the Lasalle Quartet – another landmark event.
As I have already implied this is a most impressive version of a Symphony that is modelled structurally and moodwise on Mahler’s Das Lied
. The 1924 premiere was conducted by Zemlinsky in Prague a year after the work’s completion. Despite the passage of the years Maazel’s version sounds deeply impressive and the balance between voices and orchestra is an exemplar of the art of the audio-technician. As with the Mahler work this piece moves with ease between chamber textures and whooping climactic storms of sound. The inspiration may be of
the East but it has none of the chinoiserie of the Mahler work. For the more skeletally reduced poetic filigree try the giggling high violin tracery in the second movement – a subtle but deeply effective moment among many. For the emotional tempest do sample the transition between II and III - an episode that bridges turmoil and turmoil. Maazel’s is a performance that is as encompassing of the urgent flood of emotions as it is of the sustained starlight of the final Molto adagio
. There’s glorious singing from both singers but Fischer-Dieskau, the dominant voice, is especially impressive. The honey-grained magnificence of his voice adds greatly to the uneasy restless contentment of the final movement and to the slowly described parabola into silence.
The fine notes are by Horst Weber in a very well polished translation by Mary Whittall.
If you are on a tight budget the Maazel is self-recommending with hardly any compromise except in twenty-five years of recording technology. Technology and art are in equipoise in the full price Beaumont version from Chandos and if money were no object that’s the one I would opt for but I would always hanker after the Maazel. It’s a cop out but I would ideally want both. The Chandos also offers 26 minutes of the very rare incidental music from Cymbeline
1. Lyrische Symphony, Op. 18: I. Langsam - Mit Ernst - ..... 10:08
2. Lyrische Symphony, Op. 18: II. Lebhaft: 'Mutter , Der Junge Prinz Muß An Unserer Türe Vorbeikommen' 05:56
3. Lyrische Symphony, Op. 18: III. Sehr Ruhig Und Mit Innigem, Ernstem Ausdruck - ..... 06:15
4. Lyrische Symphony, Op. 18: IV. Langsam - Schwebend, Sehr Ruhig: 'Sprich Zu Mir, Geliebter! Sag Mir it Worten, Was Du Sangest' 07:06
5. Lyrische Symphony, Op. 18: IV. Feurig Ud Kraftvoll: 'Befrei Mich Von Den Banden Deiner Süße, Lieb!' 01:56
6. Lyrische Symphony, Op. 18: VI. Sehr Mäßige Viertel (Andante): 'Vollende Denn Das Letzte Lied Und Laß ns Auseinandergehn' 04:07
7. Lyrische Symphony, Op. 18: VII. Molto adagio: 'Friede, Mein Herz, Laß Die Zeit Für Das Scheiden Süß Sein'