Sunday, 15 March 2009

Zemlinsky Lyric Symphony Salonen London more on Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony, pleas read my most recent analyses HERE and HERE. It's one of my favourites, which I've lived with many years.  

Esa Pekka Salonen conducted Zemlinsky;'s Lyric Symphony with the Philharmonia in 2008. Very good, though the soloists didn't come over clearly. Next morning after the concert I was off to Frankfurt and who should be sitting in the same coffee shop at Heathrow ? Members of the Philharmonia, off to their next gig in Köln! It was great to see them and congratulate them on their good work. It wasn't quite in the league of their recent Gurrelieder, but that was so exceptional, it would be hard to top. (see my review below and Mark's too).

Zemlinsky isn't everyone's cup of tea as his music isn't often performed as well as it might be. Last year I listened again to the massive James Conlon Zemlinsky series on EMI, which was reissued as a cheap box set. It was strange how disappointing it sounded, for these were the recordings I learned Zemlinsky from in the first place. Perhaps my tastes have changed after learning more and hearing more. The recordings I've turned to most in recent years have been those by Chailly and the Royal Concertgebouw Amsterdam. I'd avoided these at first because they were expensive. But cost doesn't equate with value. Budget recordings may be cheap, but in the long term, a good performance lasts longer, whatever the initial cost.

Salonen's Zemlinsky, from this hearing, is promising. He could bear comparison with Chailly, though I suspect Salonen doesn't favour the more "picturesque" aspects of Zemlinsky's work: The Lyric Symphony is the composer's most sophisticated moment. Choosing the right voices is tricky.The soprano part is particularly demanding, though the baritone can get away with straightforward singing (though really good singing transforms the part). The real challenge is interpretation : what is the music about, how do its pieces fit together ? I think Salonen has what it takes to conduct a really interesting Lyric Symphony . Unlike something massive like Gurrelieder, this symphony is not difficult to programme, so perhaps Salonen can develop it in his repertoire.

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