Zemlinsky: Die Seejungfrau; Sinfonietta

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Zemlinsky
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Die Seejungfrau; Sinfonietta
PERFORMER: Cologne Gürzenich Orchestra/James Conlon
CATALOGUE NO: CDC 5 55515 2
EMI’s new recording of Zemlinsky’s youthful symphonic poem Die Seejungfrau is an impressively packaged release, which includes a separate booklet with Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Little Mermaid, complemented by reproductions of Edmund Dulac’s series of illustrations from 1912 of the same name.

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But, emerging only a few months after Decca’s re-releasing of the Chailly recording in their Entartete Musik series, the new EMI issue faces stiff competition. Chailly’s translucent textures emphasise the pictorial nature of the work: he energetically whips up the storm, heightens the supernatural colours in the scene with the sea-witch, and tenderly shapes the sweetly sentimental mermaid theme. And the immediacy of his interpretation is emphasised by Decca’s exemplary all-illuminating spread of sound.

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The EMI sound, by comparison, is one-dimensional and only underlines Conlon’s more inhibited, less colourful approach, which fails to make the work come alive. EMI’s one advantage over Decca is its coupling of the masterly Sinfonietta, composed some thirty years after Die Seejungfrau and worlds apart. Deborah Calland