Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942) [Composer Of The Week]

Episodes

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01Ugly, Beautiful2017021320170320 (R3)

Donald Macleod introduces the ugly, beautiful, hyper-expressive musical world of Alexander Zemlinsky - and his turbulent early life in pre-war Vienna.

Alexander Zemlinsky may have been famously ugly. But his music is amongst the most beautiful, intense and passionate ever written. Pilloried through his life for his gawky, bespectacled appearance and diminutive stature, he lived a life in the shadow of his friend and brother-in-law Arnold Schoenberg, and his one-time lover, the beautiful socialite Alma Mahler. "My time will come after my death", the composer said - and in the last half century audiences have come to love the shimmering details and epic Romantic sweep of his music. Often compared musically to Mahler, Zemlinsky weathered the build-up to two world wars from his beloved home city of Vienna, only to die prematurely in exile in the USA.

Donald Macleod begins the week by painting a picture of "fin-de-siècle" Vienna at the turn of the 20th century - an artistic, philosophical and musical nexus. He also ilooks at Zemlinsky's close relationship with his friend, and later brother-in-law, Arnold Schoenberg.

Lyric Symphony (1st movt. Ich bin friedlos)
Matthias Goerne, baritone
Orchestre de Paris
Christophe Eschenbach, conductor

Clarinet Trio (3rd movt. Allegro)
Emma Johnson, clarinet
Frank Helmerson, cello
John Lenehan, piano

Sinfonietta (1st movt. Sehr lebhaft)
Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
Anthony Beaumont, conductor

String Quartet No 2 (5th movt. Langsam)
Escher String Quartet

Fantasies after poems by Richard Dehmel
Stanislav Khristenko, piano

Irmelin Rose
Hans Peter Blochwitz, tenor
Cord Garben, piano.

Donald Macleod focuses on Zemlinsky's turbulent early life in pre-war Vienna.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

02Alma Mahler2017021420170321 (R3)

Donald Macleod unpicks the tangled love affair between Zemlinsky and Alma Schindler, who left the composer heartbroken when she abandoned him to marry Gustav Mahler.

Alexander Zemlinsky may have been famously ugly. But his music is amongst the most beautiful, intense and passionate ever written. Pilloried through his life for his gawky, bespectacled appearance and diminutive stature, he lived a life in the shadow of his friend and brother-in-law Arnold Schoenberg, and his one-time lover, the beautiful socialite Alma Mahler. "My time will come after my death", the composer said - and in the last half century audiences have come to love the shimmering details and epic Romantic sweep of his music. Often compared musically to Mahler, Zemlinsky weathered the build-up to two world wars from his beloved home city of Vienna, only to die prematurely in exile in the USA.

It seemed a triumph for personality over looks when Zemlinsky - mocked throughout his life for his appearance - began an affair with the famously beautiful and intelligent Alma Schindler, one of the most prominent socialites in early 20th-century Vienna. Yet Alma was to leave him heartbroken when, after a passionate affair, she chose to marry Zemlinsky's musical rival Gustav Mahler. Donald Macleod explores the tumultuous events, woven around a complete performance of Zemlinsky's symphonic poem The Little Mermaid, into which he poured his anguished feelings for Alma.

Stumm in Wehmut schaut der Mond herab (Fruhlingsbegräbnis)
NDR Symphony Orchestra
Anthony Beaumont, conductor

Die Seejungfrau
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
John Storgårds, conductor.

Donald Macleod focuses on the tangled love affair between Zemlinsky and Alma Schindler.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

03The Dream Princess2017021520170322 (R3)

Donald Macleod explores Zemlinsky's opera "Görge the Dreamer", into which the devastated composer poured his unrequited love for his beloved Alma.

Alexander Zemlinsky may have been famously ugly. But his music is amongst the most beautiful, intense and passionate ever written. Pilloried through his life for his gawky, bespectacled appearance and diminutive stature, he lived a life in the shadow of his friend and brother-in-law Arnold Schoenberg, and his one-time lover, the beautiful socialite Alma Mahler. "My time will come after my death", the composer said - and in the last half century audiences have come to love the shimmering details and epic Romantic sweep of his music. Often compared musically to Mahler, Zemlinsky weathered the build-up to two world wars from his beloved home city of Vienna, only to die prematurely in exile in the USA.

Abandoned by Alma for his musical rival Gustav Mahler, Zemlinsky embarked on an operatic masterpiece, "Görge the Dreamer", in which the dreamy country boy George whiles his time away imagining tales of fairy castles and his "Dream Princess". As Donald Macleod explores, it wouldn't be the first time that Zemlinsky transplanted the psychodrama of his own turbulent life into the world of his operas. We also hear more from Zemlinsky's symphonic masterpiece, the Lyric Symphony.

Zwischenspiel (Kleider Machen Leute)
Gürzenich-Orchester Kölner Philharmoniker
James Conlon, conductor

Der Traumgörge, Act II (end)
David Kuebler, tenor (Görge)
Patricia Racette, soprano (Gertraud)
Gürzenich-Orchester Kölner Philharmoniker
James Conlon, conductor

Psalm 23
Ernst Senff Chamber Choir
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Riccardo Chailly, conductor

Lyric Symphony (2nd movt. Mutter, der Junge Prinz; 3rd movt. Du bist die Abendwolke; 4th movt. Sprich zu mir, Geliebter)
Christine Schäfer (soprano), Matthias Goerne (baritone)
Orchestre de Paris
Christophe Eschenbach, conductor.

Donald Macleod focuses on Zemlinsky's opera Gorge the Dreamer.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

04The Dwarf2017021620170323 (R3)

Donald Macleod explores Zemlinsky's most painful - and brutal - musical self-portrait: his opera "The Dwarf", written in Prague in aftermath of the First World War.

Alexander Zemlinsky may have been famously ugly. But his music is amongst the most beautiful, intense and passionate ever written. Pilloried through his life for his gawky, bespectacled appearance and diminutive stature, he lived a life in the shadow of his friend and brother-in-law Arnold Schoenberg, and his one-time lover, the beautiful socialite Alma Mahler. "My time will come after my death", the composer said - and in the last half century audiences have come to love the shimmering details and epic Romantic sweep of his music. Often compared musically to Mahler, Zemlinsky weathered the build-up to two world wars from his beloved home city of Vienna, only to die prematurely in exile in the USA.

As Europe descended into war in the mid 1910s, Zemlinsky found himself cast out of his beloved Vienna, to take up the reins of the German Opera in Prague. He was to forge a dazzlingly successful career there as a conductor, yet as his workload increased to almost breaking point, he composed his brilliant, unsettling opera "The Dwarf" - the tale of a Princess's charming new companion who, to his horror, suddenly becomes aware of his physical grotesqueness. It would be Zemlinsky's most brutal musical self-portrait.

Die drei Schwestern (Three songs after poems by Maeterlinck)
Anne-Sofie von Otter (mezzo)
NDR Symphony Orchestra
John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

Der Zwerg (The Dwarf) (opening)
Iride Martinez, soprano (Ghita)
Juanita Lascarro, Machiko Obata, Anne Schwanewilms, sopranos (Maids)
Natalle Karl, Martina Rüping, sopranos (Playmates)
Gürzenich-Orchester Kölner Philharmoniker
James Conlon, conductor

Der Zwerg (excerpts: Seltsam, die Launen... - Bist du es, feundliches Bild? - Weinst du? Liegst du am Boden?)
David Kuebler, tenor (Zwerg)
Gürzenich-Orchester Kölner Philharmoniker
James Conlon, conductor

String Quartet No 3 (3rd movt. Theme and Variations)
Brodsky Quartet.

Donald Macleod on Zemlinsky's most painful musical self-portrait: his opera The Dwarf.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

05A New Life Cut Short2017021720170324 (R3)

As the Nazis rise and war looms, Zemlinsky emigrates to the USA - only for his life to be cut cruelly short. Donald Macleod tells the tragic tale of the composer's last years in exile.

Alexander Zemlinsky may have been famously ugly. But his music is amongst the most beautiful, intense and passionate ever written. Pilloried through his life for his gawky, bespectacled appearance and diminutive stature, he lived a life in the shadow of his friend and brother-in-law Arnold Schoenberg, and his one-time lover, the beautiful socialite Alma Mahler. "My time will come after my death", the composer said - and in the last half century audiences have come to love the shimmering details and epic Romantic sweep of his music. Often compared musically to Mahler, Zemlinsky weathered the build-up to two world wars from his beloved home city of Vienna, only to die prematurely in exile in the USA.

As the 1930s drew on and the spectre of Nazism drew across Europe, Zemlinsky's multicultural background put him at risk, despite returning to his home city of Vienna. As war loomed, he followed he brother-in-law Arnold Schoenberg across the Atlantic to the USA - only to be cut down by illness just as he was establishing a new life. Donald Macleod explores his final months in exile.

Jagdstück
Bernd Künkele, Torsten Schwesig, horns
Jürgen Lamke, piano

Lieder aus Dixieland; Totes braunes Mädel; Übler bursche (Symphonic Songs)
Willard White (bass-baritone)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
Riccardo Chailly, conductor

Psalm 13
Ernst Senff Chamber Choir
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
Riccardo Chailly, conductor

String Quartet No 4 'Suite' (2nd movt. Burleske )
Brodsky Quartet

Lyric Symphony (5th movt. Befrei mich von den banden; 6th movt. Vollende denn das letzte Lied; 7th movt. Friede, mein Herz)
Christine Schäfer, soprano
Matthias Goerne, baritone
Orchestre de Paris
Christophe Eschenbach, conductor.

Donald Macleod tells the tragic tale of Zemlinsky's last years spent in exile in America.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.