It was a cruel stroke of luck that Zemlinsky’s third opera Der Traumgörge (Görge the Dreamer) was removed from rehearsal when Mahler had resigned his directorship of the Vienna Opera in 1907, with the result that it remained forgotten and unperformed until 1980 – 38 years after the composer’s death. It is a mature and entirely characteristic composition, inhabiting a similarly opulent post-Wagnerian sound-world to that of the ravishing orchestral fantasy Die Seejungfrau. In essence the orchestra plays a central role in proceedings, weaving an elaborate thread of richly hued textures, none more magical than the closing scene of Act I. The plot, however, is difficult to fathom. What, for example, does one make of the central figure of Görge? In the first act he is portrayed as a mother-fixated simpleton obsessed with fairy-tales. Yet subsequently he is hailed as a rather implausible leader of revolutionary peasants, but abandons them when finding love with Gertraud, a woman reviled as a witch and an arsonist.
No doubt many Zemlinsky enthusiasts already possess the fine 1987 Capriccio release conducted by Gerd Albrecht. But this new and welcome addition to James Conlon’s extensive Zemlinsky series has distinct advantages over its predecessor, not least the inclusion of every note of the score (amounting to nearly 30 minutes more music) and a more naturally balanced recording which allows one to hear greater orchestral detail. Although Albrecht offers an extrovert and dramatic interpretation, the lyrical approach of Conlon is ultimately more satisfying in projecting the subtle allure of Zemlinsky’s music. Erik Levi