Zemlinsky symphonies

One of the post romantic composers that I 'courted' in my adulthood days of the late 80s and 90s was Alexander von Zemlinsky, a Viennese composer sometimes thought of as another bridge between Mahler and Schoenberg-Berg. Etc. 

In the late 80s, while still in Texas, I bought CD’s of the first two symphonies, without opus numbers, in D Minor and B-flat.

I will present the Second now (composed around 1900). TheOneandOnlyZero loaded a score performance on YouTube, with Performers(s): Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, Riccardo Chailly on Decca and London, note the attributions on YT.

The work as a whole has a structure that reminds one of Brahms’s Fourth Symphony.  The first movement starts with a formal slow introduction, then an sonata-allegro with a first theme based on a descending fifth.  The repeat is taken.  The harmonic flavor reminds one of Brahms, but there are perhaps even more unresolved dissonances.  There is a certain formality to the rhetoric.

The scherzo is in G minor, with stops and starts and may sound familiar. The slow movement in E-flat is a song without words.  The finale is a theme and variations, like a passacaglia, but in 2/4 time, starting out in B-flat minor, turning back to major for a rather formal triumph at the end.

The CD I bought around 1988 of the first symphony (1893) had only the first tree movements. A fourth movement has been found, and all four movements are available on YouTube on separate posts, as performed by Conlon.  The first movement ends quietly, but the finale has a rather conventional triumph.

I saw the three-movement work The Little Mermaid performed in NYC in 2014 with the New York Philharmonic; I’ll unearth my comments on it later. Rique Borges offers it on YouTube, Critical version by Antony Beaumont; Storgårds, Helsingin kaupunginorkesteri. It is called a symphony fantasy, 3 movements, about 47 minutes, with the outer movements slow movements and the whole work (viewed essentially as Symphony #3) ending quietly as the protagonist gives up on becoming other than human (that is a dolphin). The scherzo is quite wild with darting harmonies.

I wanted to add one more work, an animated film and song Will of the People (4:32), entirely by Tim Pool (from Timcast IRL).

(Posted: Thursday, August 25, 2022 at 8 PM EDT by John W Boushka)