Entartete Musik

Silenced Voices

Silenced voices

Do you know the Black Oak Ensemble? There is a good chance you don’t, even though this American string trio, which barely anyone knows in the Netherlands, is rated as absolute top class. Its recent CD called Silenced Voices features pieces by six Jewish composers,  Géza Frid, Paul Hermann, Dick Kattenburg, Gideon Klein, Hans Krása and Sándor Kuti.

silnced ermann_1

Paul Hermann

They originally came from Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands and with the exception of Géza Frid, who was active in the Dutch Resistance, they were all murdered. Hans Krása, Gideon Klein and Dick Kattenburg at Auschwitz. Sándor Kuti at a concentration camp in the Ukraine, probably in 1945 (!). But we don’t even know when or where the almost Dutch Paul Hermann was murdered.

Silenceed Kuti_Sándor

Sándor Kuti

Sándor Kuti studied at the Franz Liszt Academy with Georg Solti, who had a great deal of respect for him and once said that if he had not been murdered, Kuti would have become one of the greatest composers of Hungary. I read that he continued to compose up until his death somewhere in the Ukraine.

His Serenade for String Trio (1934) was what touched me the most on this CD. Of course the fact that I had never heard this composition before could have influenced how it affected me, but even when I listened to it again, it intrigued and moved me. Despite the numerous quotes straight from Hungarian folk music, the trio got under my skin. Just listen to the mesmerizing Scherzando that turns into an ominous Adagio ma non troppo. Real goosebumps.

Silenced Géza Frid lowres

Géza Frid

Géza Frid taught chamber music at the Utrecht Conservatory from 1964 to 1970, and his trio also had its world premiere here. Frid survived the war but died a horrifying death. The staff at his nursing home failed to check the temperature in his bathtub and he died at the Beverwijk Burn Centre.

Silenced Krasa

Hans Krása

Like Gideon Klein’s string trio, Hans Krása’s Passacaglia & Fugue for String Trio had already been recorded a couple of times, though still not often enough. Certainly not if you bear in mind that neither of the compositions are anything short of true masterpieces.

Silenced gideon-klein-bababa2d-8316-404b-bef4-7146a240c53-resize-750

Gideon Klein

There is also an earlier recording – one recording! – of Dick Kattenburg’s Trio à cordes. It had its world première on the incredible CD of The Hague String Trio. The composition only takes five minutes but what a five minutes they are!

silenced -Zelfportret_op_partituur,_door_Dick_Kattenburg

Dick Kattenburg: self portrait

The performance by the Black Oak Ensemble is simply sublime. I think you should all buy this CD!.


Kattenburg: Trio à cordes
Kuti: Serenade for String Trio 
Krása: Passacaglia & Fuga for String Trio
Klein: Trio for violin, viola, and cello
Hermann: Strijktrio
Frid: Trio à cordes, Op. 1
Black Oak Ensemble
Cedile Records CDR 90000 189

English translation: Sheila Gogol

 

 

 

Silenced Voices: hoe lang nog?

Silenced voices

Kent u het Black Oak Ensemble? De kans is groot van niet en dat terwijl het in Nederland vrijwel onbekend Amerikaans strijktrio bij de absolute top hoort. Op de niet zo lang geleden uitgekomen cd getiteld Silenced Voices hebben ze werken opgenomen van zes Joodse componisten: Géza Frid, Paul Hermann, Dick Kattenburg, Gideon Klein, Hans Krása en Sándor Kuti.

silnced ermann_1

Paul Hermann

Oorspronkelijk kwamen ze uit Hongarije, Tsjechoslowakije en Nederland en op Géza Frid na (hij deed actief mee met het verzet in Nederland) werden ze allemaal vermoord. Hans Krása, Gideon Klein en Dick Kattenburg in Auschwitz. Sándor Kuti in een concentratiekamp in Oekraïne, waarschijnlijk in 1945 (!). Maar ook van de bijna Nederlandse Paul Hermann weten we noch de datum noch de plaats waar hij werd vermoord.

Silenceed Kuti_Sándor

Sándor Kuti

Sándor Kuti studeerde aan de Franz Liszt Academie samen met Georg Solti die hem zeer hoog achtte en ooit verklaarde dat Kuti, als hij niet vermoord was geworden een van de grootste componisten van Hongarije zou zijn geworden. Ik las dat hij tot aan zijn dood ergens in Oekraïne aan het componeren was geweest.

Zijn Serenade voor strijktrio uit 1934 is voor mij het meest aangrijpende werk op deze cd. Dat ik de compositie niet eerder had gehoord kan natuurlijk van invloed zijn geweest voor mijn beleving, maar ook bij herhaald luisteren kan ik mij er niet van los maken. Ondanks de vele citaten die rechtstreeks komen uit de Hongaarse volksmuziek voelt het trio ongemakkelijk aan. Luister even naar het Scherzando dat al je aandacht gaat opeisen en die in een onheilspellend Adagio na non troppo overgaat. Echt kippenvel.

Silenced Géza Frid lowres

Géza Frid

Ook het trio van Géza Frid (tussen 1964 en 1970 hoofddocent kamermuziek aan het Utrechts Conservatorium) beleeft hier zijn wereldpremière. Frid heeft dan de oorlog overleefd, maar zijn dood was niet minder dan gruwelijk: de verpleegkundigen in zijn verzorgingstehuis hadden de temperatuur van zijn badwater niet gecontroleerd. Hij stierf in het brandwondencentrum in Beverwijk.

Silenced Krasa

Hans Krása

Hans Krása’s Passacaglia & Fuga voor Strijktrio is, net als het strijktrio van Gideon Klein al een paar keer eerder en vaker opgenomen maar nog steeds niet vaak genoeg. Zeker als je bedenkt dat beide composities niet minder zijn dan echte meesterwerken.

Silenced gideon-klein-bababa2d-8316-404b-bef4-7146a240c53-resize-750

Gideon Klein

Ook van Dick Kattenburgs Trio à cordes bestaat al – één! –  opname, het beleefde zijn wereldpremière op de waanzinnig goede cd van Het Haags Strijktrio. Het werk duurt maar vijf minuten maar wat een vijf minuten!

silenced -Zelfportret_op_partituur,_door_Dick_Kattenburg

Dick Kattenburg: zelfporrtet

De uitvoering door het Black Oak Ensemble is gewoon subliem. Deze cd moet u allemaal van mij kopen.


Kattenburg: Trio à cordes
Kuti: Serenade for String Trio 
Krása: Passacaglia & Fuga for String Trio
Klein: Trio for violin, viola, and cello
Hermann: Strijktrio
Frid: Trio à cordes, Op. 1

The voice of the Viola in Times of Opression: de altviool als stem voor de vervolgden

After the Darkness

Forbidden Music in World WAR II: PAUL HERMANN

Entartete Musik, Teresienstadt en Channel Classics

DROMEN ZIJN BEDROG

 

 

Persian poems about the pleasures of wine, set to music by a Czech Jew.

Ulmaan MatuszekThe

Persian poet Hafiz has also influenced many westerners. His ghazels (short poems mainly about love and wine) were the inspiration for Goethe’s ‘West-Östlicher Divan’. But many composers have also set his poems to music, including Karol Szymanowski and Victor Ullmann.

Ullmann composed his Liederbuch des Hafis in 1940. The wonderfully light-footed, humorous and lyrical songs are a feast for the ear and would make a very pleasant extension of the song repertoire. It is therefore impossible for me to understand why they are not sung more frequently. After all, Ullmann is one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century and he is no longer that unknown, is he?

In 1942 Ullmann was deported to Terezín (Theresienstadt). There he wrote many of his most important works, including his String Quartet No. 3 and the opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis. The songs Der Mensch und sein Tag op. 47 and the Drei Chinesische Lieder (Three Chinese Songs) also date from this period.

The Czech baritone Petr Matuszek has a very beautiful and warm timbre, he sings intelligibly and with much feeling. His repertoire is very broad: besides Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Zelenka (!) he also sings many contemporary compositions. Moreover, he has recorded almost all the songs of the ‘Theresienstadt composers’.

He is excellently accompanied by Aleš Kanka on the piano and in the song ‘Herbst’ (here incorrectly added to the cycle Der Mensch und sein Tag) he is assisted by a string trio.


Victor Ullmann
Songs
Petr Matuszek baritone
Aleš Kanka piano, Pavel Eret violin, Libor Kanka viola, Vladan Kocí cello
Supraphon SU 3284-2 231

Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator

Alexander Zemlinsky. Part 4: ‘Warum hast du mir nicht gesagt…’

EINE FLORENTINISCHE TRAGÖDIE

zemlinsky FT Wacik klein

Bianca, the attractive wife of the merchant Simone is having an affair with the beautiful prince Guido Bardi. Simone catches them and challenges Guido to a duel with swords and eventually strangles him with his bare hands.  His wife looks at him admirably: “Why didn’t you tell me that you were so strong?” In turn, Simone becomes aware of the beauty of his wife: “Why didn’t you tell me that you were so beautiful…”

Zemlinsky Oscar_Wilde_portrait

Oscar Wilde

Eine Florentinische Tragödie  is based on the last play by Oscar Wilde. The beginning of the play is missing: the manuscript was stolen when Wilde went to prison. Zemlinsky solved the problem by composing a prologue to suggest the love scene between Bianca and Guido.

The opera, which premiered in 1917, provided a lot of gossip. “Eine autobiografische Tragödie” (An autobiographical Tragedy) was the headline of the Vienna Zeitung article by Edwin Baumgartner. Alma Mahler was not amused. She was certain that Zemlinsky had depicted her affair with Walter Groppius.

Mathilde Schönberg Zemlinsky with child

and with her husband

The Viennese public, on the other hand, thought it was about Schönberg and his wife Mathilde, Zemlinsky’s sister. Mathilde had left her husband for the young painter Richard Gerstl.

Zemlinsky Gerstl_-_Bildnis_Mathilde_Schönberg

Mathilde Schönberg with child. Painting by Gerstl

When she returned to her husband, Gerstl committed suicide, he was only 25 years old

Zemlinsky Gerstl

Richard Gerstl: ‘Selbstbildnis (“Akt in ganzer Figur’) from 1908. Courtesy Leopold Museum / Neue Galerie

All in the family in the best tradition, so to speak.

But what do you think: can you consider a fictional character in a work of art as the alter ego of its creator? Do you want to project a composer’s course of life onto the opera he has composed? How far do you involve life in art?

In a letter to Alma Mahler, Zemlinsky wrote that “a life had to be sacrificed in order to save the lives of two others.” But does this immediately make this the central theme of this opera, as many critics write? I don’t know.

One thing is certain: Eine Florentinische Tragödie can be listened to as an exciting, dark thriller, in which you do not sympathize with any of the characters.

Zemlinsky Tragedie Chailly

In 1997 Decca included the opera in their now expired series ‘Entartete Musik’. Riccardo Chailly conducted the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Decca 4551122).

In the same year there was also a (live) recording of the Cologne Gürzenich-Orchester conducted by their then chief conductor James Conlon (once on EMI).

ZemllinskyConlonFRONT-1

Both recordings are good and I wouldn’t know which one to choose. Chailly’s orchestral sound is fuller and the strings sound more pleasant, but Conlon is undeniably more exciting, perhaps because it was recorded live.

The sound of the Cologne orchestra is more sensual, the sound of the RCO is darker. The singers are equally good in both recordings, although I find David Kuebler (Guido at Conlon) much more pleasant than the slightly shrill Heinz Kruse for Chailly.

Iris Vermillion for Chailly sounds nicer and warmer than Deborah Voigt for Conlon, but the latter has more sex appeal. In the role of Guido, Albert Dohmen (Chailly) is by far preferable to the not entirely idiomatic Donnie Ray Albert.

ZemlinskyCD Jurowski

In 2010 Eine Florentinische Tragödie was recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the very inspiring leadership of Vladimir Jurowsky (LPO-0078). Albert Dohmen is back: his Simone sounds even more impressive than on Decca.

Sergey Skorokhodov’s Guido is a wimp and no match for the macho Dohmen. A Don Ottavio who will take on Hunding, so to speak. Heike Wessels (Bianca) is a mistake.

On YouTube you can find many (fragments) of live performances of the opera, among others from Lyon:

Frühlingsbegräbnis, the cantata that brought Zemlinsky into contact with Alma Mahler.

Zemlinsky cantate fruhling

This cantata is (was?) available on CD, performed very well by the Gürzenich-Orchester in Cologne, conducted by James Conlon, with the soprano Deborah Voigt and the baritone Donnie Ray Albert as soloists.  I love this work, it reminds me a little of Brahms’s Ein Deutsches requiem. The cantata was once coupled with several other unknown works by Zemlinsky, who all had their record premieres here: “Cymbeline”-Suite, after lyrics of Shakespeare and Ein Tanzpoem. Unfortunately…. Even YouTube has removed this recording, so second hand (or asking a friend who owns it for a copy) remains the only option.

Strangely enough Frühlingsbegräbnis by Conlon is on Spotify, but in combination with Psalms and Hochzeitgesang in a totally different performance:

On Spotify you can also listen to the recording under Antony Beaumont. The performance is less beautiful than that of Conlon but certainly not bad:

Cymbeline by Conlon can be found on You Tube:

James Conlon about Zemlinsky (and Ullmann):

“The music of Alexander Zemlinsky and Viktor Ullmann remained hidden for decades by the aftermath of the destruction caused by the Nazi regime […] Full recognition of their works and talent is still lacking, more than 70 years after their death […] Their lives and personal histories were tragic, but their music transcends it all. It is up to us to appreciate their story in its full historical and artistic context.”

Literature consulted:
Antony Beaumont: Zemlinsky
Michael Haas: Forbidden Music. The Jewish Composers banned by the Nazis

ALEXANDER ZEMLINSKY. Part 1: The Man

Alexander Zemlinsky. Part 2: ‘Du bist mein Eigen.’

Alexander Zemlinsky. Part 3: dreams and the happiness that needs to be hidden

Alexander Zemlinsky. Part 3: dreams and the happiness that needs to be hidden

DER ZWERG

Zemlinsky Zwerg dvd

Like no other renowned conductor, James Conlon has been an ardent advocate of the ‘Entartet composers’ for years. In his Cologne years (between 1989 and 2002 he was chief conductor of the Gürzenich-Orchester and artistic director of the opera) he performed and recorded almost all of Zemlinski’s orchestral and vocal works. I cherish his recordings on EMI (unfortunately most of them are no longer on the market) as the greatest treasures, which they probably are.

Zemlinsky James Conlon

James Conlon

In 2006, Conlon was appointed musical director of the Los Angeles opera and one of his first projects was a series of ‘Recovered Voices: A Lost Generation’s Long-Fortgotten Masterpieces.’ The series started in 2008 with a double-bill of Ullmann’s Der zerbrochene Krug and Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg. (Arthaus Music 101 528)

The idea of composing an opera about an ugly man who is in love with a beauty has haunted Zemlinsky all his life, and that’s how he ended up with Oscar Wilde and his The Birthday of the Infanta.

Zemlinsky zwerg kostuum

Costume design for ‘Der Zwerg’ by August Haag, Cologne 1922.

On her eighteenth birthday Donna Clara receives a remarkable gift: a dwarf, who is also hideously ugly. A delightful toy for the infante, especially since the dwarf does not know he is ugly himself – he has never seen his own reflection… Donna Clara makes him fall in love with her and makes him think that she loves him too, after which she puts him in front of mirrors. He doesn’t survive, but that doesn’t interest the spoiled princess.

Zemlinksy velazquez.meninas

Diego Velázques: Las Meninas

The very traditional and naturalistic setting is exceptionally beautiful and the costumes are dazzling. You really think you’re at the Spanish court. The whole thing looks like a painting of Velazques, breathtaking.

The execution is also breathtaking. James Johnson sings and acts an excellent Don Esteban. Mary Dunleavy has everything it takes to perform the conceited infante: she is beautiful and capricious. Her voice is silvery and childishly light. As an actress she also knows how to convince.

Rodrick Dixon sings the leading role here in an inimitable way. The only singer I ever liked better in this part was Douglas Nasrawi, whom I heard singing it during a Saturday Matinee at the Concertgebouw.

James Conlon on Ullmann’s Der zerbrochene Krug conducted by him, coupled with Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg:

DER TRAUMGÖRGE

Zemlinsky Traumgorge

“The fairy tales must become reality,” sings Görge, after his dream has been laughed at by the farmers and his fiancée Grete. And so it happens: Görge finds his dreamed princess in the form of Gertraud, cast out by the farmers, and his dream comes true.

Zemlinski has provided the story of Görge the dreamer and his search for the unattainable ideal with music of touching beauty. Sehnsucht, shimmering eroticism, symbolism …. You name it and you’ll find it. The work reminds me strongly of Szymanowski’s Król Roger, the same long, spun-out lines in the soprano aria, the same overwhelming choral parts, swelling orchestra. I love it.

Der Traumgörge (Leo Feld’s libretto after Richard von Volkmann-Leander’s fairytale ‘Vom unsichtbaren Königreich’ and Heine’s poem ‘Der arme Peter’) was meant by Zemlinsky as a tribute to his then beloved Alma. Due to circumstances, the opera was never performed during his lifetime; the first – considerably shortened – performance only took place in 1980.

Zemlinsky Traumgorge decor

Set design by Alfred Roller for ‘Der Traumgörge’. Vienna Court Opera 1907

The first complete recording from 1999 proves that the music is not to blame. The Cologne orchestra conducted by James Conlon alone deserves an A-plus and the soloists are absolutely sublime.

David Kuebler plays a beautiful Görge with a radiant height. His voice mixes the right amount of metal with sottovoce, which is necessary for this role.

Patricia Racette, then still a great unknown, is unearthly beautiful as Gertraud (her velvet tones in ‘Oh! Ich wil zu dir in die Welt’ are of a Korgoldian beauty) and Andreas Schmidt has enough of a peasant to be a convincing Hans. The live recording sounds excellent.

DER KÖNIG KANDAULES

Zemlinsky KK Gerome

Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904): ‘King Candaules’.

In 1938, Zemlinsky fled to New York. His suitcase contained the unfinished opera Der könig Kandaules. Once in New York, he hoped for a performance at the Metropolitan Opera.

Zemlinsky Andre Gide

André Gide

Unfortunately for him the libretto based on the play by André Gide (King Kandaules wants to share his happiness and [the beauty of] his wife with everyone. Encouraged by the king and helped by a ring that makes him invisible, Gyges spends one night with the queen. When she finds out what happened, she urges Gyges to kill the king, after which he himself is crowned king) was too risky for the American public. When Zemlinsky died in 1942, his opera was still unfinished.

Zemlinsky Beaumont

Antony Beaumont

It was only the English musicologist and Zemlinsky biographer Antony Beaumont who completed the score. In October 1996 the opera was performed in Hamburg, with enormous success. The performance was recorded live and released on the label Capriccio (600712).

Zemlinsky KK Capriccio

The performance, conducted by Gerd Albrecht, is without a doubt excellent and the leading roles of James O’Neal (Kandaules), Monte Pederson (Gyges) and Nina Warren (Nyssia) are very adequately cast. In the small role of Nicomedes we hear a young debutant, Mariusz Kwiecień.

 

Zemlinsky KK Nagano

In 2002 Salzburg programmed the opera and the performance was recorded live – phenomenally cast – and released on 2 CD’s (Naïve 3070) in a very elaborate edition. The role of Kandaules was sung with dedication by Robert Brubacker and Wolfgang Schöne was an excellent Gyges. The Swedish Nina Stemme, who was then still in the lyrical ‘fach’, sang a beautiful Nyssia. The Deutsches Symphonie Orchester conducted by Kent Nagano sounds very exciting.

Our unsurpassed Saturday Matinee performed the opera in November 2007 as a concert performance, unfortunately there is no recording of it. Too bad, because the conductor Bernhard Kontarsky conducted with great dedication and Stuart Skelton and Jeanne-Michèle Charbonnet were unforgettable as the royal couple.

Gyges (or was it Zemlinsky himself?): „Der, der ein Glück hält, soll sich gut verstecken! Und besser noch, sein Glück vor Andern“.


ALEXANDER ZEMLINSKY. Part 1: The Man

Alexander Zemlinsky. Part 2: ‘Du bist mein Eigen.’

in Dutch:
EINE (AUTO)BIOGRAFISCHE TRAGÖDIE: ALEXANDER ZEMLINSKY. Deel 3: dromen en het geluk dat verborgen dient te worden

The Song of Terezin & Requiem Ebraico

waxman zeissl

In the nineties of the last century the (once very renowned) classical music label Decca started an unsurpassed series ‘Entartete Musik’. Under the supervision of producer Michael Haas, works were recorded by composers who were persecuted by the Nazis, many of whom were murdered in concentration camps and then ignored and even forgotten for decades.

The series didn’t last long. Sales figures were disappointing, Haas was fired, and most of those CDs are now out of print.

waxmann zeisl waxman-resize-800x955

Franz Waxman

Every true fan of film classics knows the music of Franz Waxman. His compositions for Rebecca, Sunset Boulevard and A Place in the Sun, among others, have earned him numerous Oscar nominations and twice he was actually awarded the statuette.

waxman zeisl humoresque

For Humoresque by Jean Negulesco, starring Joan Crawford and John Garfield, he composed an outright hit: ‘Carmen Fantasie’ (played in the film by Isaac Stern), a virtuoso piece for violin and orchestra that is ubiquitous in concert halls and on recordings.

However, few people know that he has also composed ‘serious’ music. It is simply ignored.

waxman zeisl zeisl

Eric Zeisl

Zeisl’s name is almost completely forgotten nowadays. Harmonia Mundi once recorded some of his chamber music works, but these recordings too have since disappeared from the catalogue. Both composers were contemporaries with a similar fate, who ended up in Hollywood on the run from the Nazis. If their respective fates are similar, their music in no way is.

The song cycle Das Lied von Terezín consists of eight poems, written by Czech children between the ages of 12 and 16 during their stay in the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Deeply affected by the fate of these children, Waxman composed a very moving piece of music in 1965 that, in terms of its power of expression, can be compared to Schoenberg’s A Survivor from Warsaw. The majority is written in the twelve-tone technique, but there is also a clear influence of Zemlinsky (‘Der Garten’) and in ‘Dachbodenkoncert in einer alten Schule’ a motive from Beethoven’s Mondscheinsonate is quoted. The whole is performed very movingly by the two choirs and the mezzo-soprano Della Jones.

Eric Zeisl’s Requiem Ebraico is based on Psalm 92 and is dedicated to the composer’s father and ‘all the victims of the Jewish tragedy in Europe’. Zeisl’s music is very melodic and strongly influenced by Jewish and Hebrew themes. It is unbelievable that it is not performed more frequently!


Franz Waxman: The Song of Terezín
Eric Zeisl: Requiem Ebraico
Deborah Riedel, Della Jones, Michael Kraus
Rundfunk-kinderchor Berlin, Rundfunkchor Berlin, Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin conducted by Lawrence Foster (Decca 4602112)

“Ich möcht so gern nach Haus!”: Anne Sofie von Otter sings songs by ‘Theresienstadt composers.’

Entartete Musik, Teresienstadt and Channel Classics

Translated with http://www.Deep

Alexander Zemlinsky. Part 2: ‘Du bist mein Eigen.’

Zemlinsky LS partituur

It is very hard to believe, but the first post-war performance of the Lyrische Symphonie dates from the late 1970s. This absolute masterpiece was composed between 1922-23 and premiered in Prague on 4 June 1924. Like Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, it is a kind of cross between an orchestral song cycle and a symphony.

Zemmlinsky Rabindranath-Tagore+Der-Gärtner

Zemlinsky wrote the work on the text of the Bengal poet Rabindranath Tagore ‘The Gardener’, in a German translation by Hans Effenberger. The seven love poems are cast in the form of a dialogue between a prince (baritone) and a girl in love (soprano). Many musicologists consider the work to be autobiographical and there is certainly an element of truth in that.

Or was it the (still?) raw break with Alma Schindler, as some critics would have us believe? I don’t think so, I’m much more inclined to believe Antony Beaumont (the Zemlinsky connoisseur and biographer) that the work was about his relationship with Louise Sachsel, which had just begun at the time.

Zemlinsky Berg en Fuchs

Alban Berg and Hanna Fuchs

Seen in this context, it is perhaps interesting to know that Alban Berg quoted the third movement of the symphony (‘Du bist mein Eigen’) in the ‘Adagio Apassionato’ of his Lyrical Suite for string quartet. As you know, Berg had a secret love affair at the time with Hanna Fuchs, for whom he composed the work.

Below is the Adagio appassionato performed by the Galimir String Quartet. The recording dates from 1935:

There are quite a few performances of Zemlinsky’s once so mercilessly forgotten but now best-known and most frequently performed work. Two by James Conlon and Riccardo Chailly immediately stand out.

Zemlinsky LS Chailly

Chailly wins, mainly because of the unparalleled sound of the RCO, but in the fourth movement Conlon manages to elicit such sweet tones from the orchestra that I am totally won over by his performance.

Recording under Riccardo Chaillly:


Zemlinsky LS Conlon

The soloists are also better for Conlon. Bo Skovhus convinces me much more than Håkan Hagegård. The latter has a warm, round baritone with something soothing in his timbre and I find that a disadvantage here. The restlessness in the voice of Skovhus gives his words more impact.

I also find Skovhus’s interpretation more transparent and his pronunciation better. Listen how he sings the words “Du bist mein Eigen, mein Eigen, du, die meinen endlosen Träumen wohnt”… !

Soile Isokoski is also preferable to Chailly’s soprano, Alexandra Marc, however beautifully she sings.

Recording with James Conlon:


Bo Skovhus has always been an artist with a more than warm heart for ‘Entartete Musik’. He showed this by, among other things, the choices he made for the works he sang.

Lyrische Symphonie was often featured in his concert programmes all over the world, including in Amsterdam (March 2007, with Hillevi Martinpelto and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Donald Runnicles). In addition to the EMI recording with Conlon, Skovhus recorded the work also for RCA, this time with the incredibly beautiful lyrical soprano Luba Orgonasova.

Zemlinsky LS Flor

The conducting of Claus Peter Flor is a bit unbalanced, but the six extra songs, sung by Skovhus and beautifully accompanied on the piano by Helmut Deutsch, make up for a lot.

Below is a recording with Bo Skovhus, Maria Bengtsson and the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Kirill Petrenko, recorded in the Berlin Philharmonic on 30 December 2011:

In the recording on BBC Classics from 1996 the vocal parts are sung with great understanding and even more nuances by Thomas Allen and Elisabeth Söderström. Michael Gielen shows an enormous affinity for the score.

Zemlinsky LS Allen

In Dutch: EINE (AUTO)BIOGRAFISCHE TRAGÖDIE: ALEXANDER ZEMLINSKY. Deel 2: ‘Du bist mein Eigen’

ALEXANDER ZEMLINSKY. Part 1: The Man