Emmanuel Krivine conducts Strauss and Zemlinsky

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COMPOSERS: R Strauss,Zemlinsky
LABELS: Alpha Classics
ALBUM TITLE: R Strauss • Zemlinsky
WORKS: R Strauss: Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks; Zemlinsky: The Mermaid
PERFORMER: Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg/Emmanuel Krivine
CATALOGUE NO: ALPHA 236  

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This is the second recording to feature the original version of Zemlinsky’s Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid) as edited by scholar and conductor, Antony Beaumont. The major difference in Beaumont’s edition is the restoration of a substantial amount of music from the second movement that for unknown reasons was suppressed by the composer. In the section in question, depicting the Mermaid’s encounter with the Sea-Witch, Zemlinsky introduces some highly-charged and dramatic music which forms an extremely effective contrast to the more lyrical and reflective writing that surrounds it.

Both Emmanuel Krivine and John Storgårds (on the earlier Ondine release) make a persuasive case for the expanded second movement, yet Krivine’s approach to the score as a whole is the more emotionally compelling. Although Storgårds revels in the sheer beauty and subtlety of Zemlinsky’s scoring (and is considerably aided in this respect by the sumptuousness of Ondine’s SACD recording), his interpretation seems measured and self-contained in comparison to the fluidity of nuance and urgency achieved by Krivine. This is particularly noticeable in the very few surging orchestral climaxes where Krivine really notches up the tension in comparison to the cooler projection of Storgårds.

On first glance, coupling the doom-laden Die Seejungfrau with such an irreverent work as Till Eulenspiegel may seem incongruous. Nevertheless, there are clear historical justifications for this pairing, not least that Zemlinsky was inspired to compose his work after attending a concert of Strauss’s orchestral music in Vienna. More importantly, Krivine delivers a sparkling account supported by incisive and strongly characterised orchestral playing.

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Erik Levi