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A Symphony in all but name, Zemlinsky’s lavishly scored ‘symphonic fantasy’ Die Seejungfrau (1903) is his most frequently performed large-scale work beside the Lyric Symphony (Naxos 8572048).
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale of the mermaid who sacrifices herself out of unrequited love for a prince, the work places greater emphasis on thematic development than on mere illustration.
Written over three decades later, when Zemlinsky’s music was taking on a more astringent manner, the Sinfonietta is remarkable for its nervous energy, anguished passion and sheer virtuosity
Alexander von Zemlinsky: Sinfonietta, Op. 23
I. Sehr lebhaft
II. Ballade: Sehr gemessen [poco adagio], doch nicht schleppend
III. Sehr lebhaft
Alexander von Zemlinsky: Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid)
I. Sehr massig bewegt
II. Sehr bewegt, rauschend
III. Sehr gedehnt, mit schmerzvollem Ausdruck
“Zemlinsky's symphonic fantasy Die Seejungfrau… is one of the most sumptuously scored orchestral pieces of the early 20th century. James Judd… galvanises the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra into playing this challenging score with sensitivity and a good deal of virtuosity.”
31st July 2009
“Seejungfrau is crammed with ravishing, expansive melodies and lush, aqueous harmonies and, as the New Zealand Symphony performance shows, it's a mystery why it is not an established repertory work”
11th July 2009
“Zemlinsky’s symphonic fantasy may have fewer take-home tunes than Disney’s The Little Mermaid, but you can’t fault its opulent sweep, lively imagination, or inventive scoring.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.