Michael Gielen’s Zemlinsky recording a welcome reissue

This is a rerelease of a 1989 recording. it’s the fourth in a series of reissues of Michael Gielen and the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Gielen was an ardent champion of contemporary music. His attention to detail was legendary — and it’s an asset in this release.

The featured work is Alexander Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony. According to the liner notes, it’s “generally regarded as his equivalent to Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde.”

Well, maybe. “Das Lied von der Erde” premiered in 1911, the year Zemlinsky composed his symphony.

They’re both large, sprawling works. But there’s a different aesthetic at play with Zemlinsky. Gielen, who recorded a cycle of Mahler symphonies, understands that difference. He goes big with the emotion, letting loose the overripe Romanticism of Zemlinsky’s score. It’s Fin de siècle Vienna expressed in sound.

And makes for a thrilling performance. The soloists sing with heartfelt expression. Gielen leads the orchestra in grand, dramatic sweeps.

This is a reissue from the 1980s. The sound is good, and there’s a fair amount of detail. but it is a little soft-focussed compared to contemporary recordings. But this release isn’t about the sound, it’s about the performances. If you’re like me, any quibbles about the sound quality will disappear once the music starts.

Alexander Zemlinsky: Lyric Symphony, Op. 19
Franz Schreker: Vorspiel zu einen Drama
Karan Armstrong, soprano; Roland Hermann, baritone
ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra; Michael Gielen, conductor
Orfeo C210241

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