DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

LEBRECHT LISTENS | A New Benchmark For Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony

By Norman Lebrecht on February 15, 2019

Alexander von Zemlinsky: Lyric Symphony (Accentus)

★★★★ (out of five)
🎧 Amazon | Presto Classical | Accentus

I think I’m safe in saying there is no satisfactory performance of this troubling work on record. Lorin Maazel undertook it for DG with minimal conductorial intervention, Michael Gielen released a live — and fairly lithe — radio recording and Riccardo Chailly broached it with the Concertgebouw in the early 1990s, which is as good as it got until now but not close enough for me to the heart of the Zemlinsky enigma.

The Lyric Symphony is the only major work to take the form of Das Lied von der Erde, with baritone and soprano instead of tenor and mezzo, but otherwise structurally and emotionally a tribute work to Mahler’s masterpiece. Where Mahler turned East to Ming Dynasty poets, his disciple Zemlinsky turned to the contemporary Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore, presenting the work in 1923, a dozen years after Mahler’s death when Zemlinsky was music director at the German Theatre in Prague.

The difference between the two works is that Mahler, in Das Lied, tears himself apart over the impossibility of two humans ever connecting at the deepest level while Zemlinsky is more dewy-eyed on the meaning of friendship. Still, he touches the listener’s heart and this new recording by the Polish National Radio Orchestra comes out tops. The German conductor Alexander Liebreich takes it at a fair clip, much brisker than Chailly, a gamble that pays off in pinpoint rhythms and total concentration.  The soloists Johanna Winkel and Michael Nagy do nothing too dramatic, which is exactly as the piece should be sung, and the orchestra, recorded in Katowice’ new NOSPR hall, is absolutely first class, with crisp, transparent sound. Listen carefully and you will hear as many echoes of Mahler’s 5th and 9th symphonies as you do of Das Lied.

This benchmark performance is paired cleverly with Szymanowski’s first violin concerto, contemporary in both atmosphere and confusion, and with Elina Vähälä as soloist. Simply the best available.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.

Norman Lebrecht

Norman Lebrecht is one of the most widely-read commentators on music, culture and cultural politics. He is a regular presenter on BBC Radio 3 and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Standpoint, Sinfini and other publications. His blog, Slipped Disc, is among the most widely read cultural sites online, breaking exclusive stories and campaigning against human abuse and acts of injustice in the cultural industries.
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

THE SCOOP | TSO, Barbara Hannigan, Gryphon Trio, And Jeremy Dutcher Win 2019 Juno Albums Of The Year

By Anya Wassenberg on March 16, 2019

And the 48th annual Juno Gala Dinner and Awards winners are...
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

THE SCOOP | Alexander Neef Named In List Of Candidates For Head Of Paris Opera

By Michael Vincent on March 13, 2019

Canadian Opera Company's Alexander Neef included in the long list of 10 candidates being considered for the coveted director-general of the Paris Opera.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

IN MEMORIAM | Canadian Choral Community Devastated Over Loss Of Conductor In His Prime

By Anya Wassenberg on March 7, 2019

Dominic Gregorio, choral conductor and baritone, has died at the age of 41.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.