The BBC National Orchestra
of Wales and Martyn Brabbins
perform two works from the crucible of the Viennese fin de siècle. Zemlinsky wrote his two completed symphonies while studying at the Conservatory. He wrote under the watchful eye of its conservative masters, and was greatly influenced by Brahms, but like many of his classmates and contemporaries, Zemlinsky peppered the otherwise bland Conservatory diet with visits to performances of new works by Verdi, Wagner and Richard Strauss. Caught between these two factions, these symphonies show him wrestling, often thrillingly, with the pedagogical parameters imposed upon him.
You may know about the life of Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942): born full of promise in old Vienna, dying disappointed and neglected in émigré New York, brother-in-law of Schoenberg, lover of Alma Schindler who ditched him for Mahler. But there are increasing attempts to address this imbalance, with some of Zemlinsky's prominent, later works the Lyric Symphony and the tone poem The Mermaid now programmed regularly. These two early symphonies, played with the right degree of late-Romantic lushness and fluency by the BBC NOW under Martyn Brabbins, places him firmly in that fascinating stylistic crevice between Brahms and Mahler. Whether you see him as a footnote to the 19th century or a prelude to the 20th, the music has a variety and melodic warmth which is well worth exploring. **** --Guardian, 2/2/14
Those wedded to the great Austro-German Romantics are likely to find this coupling irresistible. --Gramophone, Mar'14
Those wanting just the two symphonies will find the present release admirably fills a gap in their collection. --IRR, Mar'14
Martyn Brabbins has a strong empathy for Zemlinsky's musical language, demonstrating a masterly control of pacing each movement. Performance **** Recording ***** --BBC Music Magazine, Apr'14
BBC National Orchestra of Wales - Martyn Brabbins, direction