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Track(s) taken from CDA67985

Symphony in B flat major

composer
1897 sometimes referred to as Symphony No 2

BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Martyn Brabbins (conductor)
Studio Master FLAC & ALAC downloads available
CD-Quality:
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Recording details: February 2013
BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, Wales
Produced by Andrew Keener
Engineered by Simon Eadon & Dave Rowell
Release date: February 2014
Total duration: 45 minutes 39 seconds

Cover artwork: Profile of a girl (preparatory work for a decorative stain, 1897) by Koloman Moser (1868-1918)
 
1
2
3
Adagio  [9'07]
4
Moderato  [10'45]

Reviews

'Considering that Alexander von Zemlinsky was in his twenties when he composed his two early symphonies, both works demonstrate an uncommon level of maturity … Everywhere one senses a voice leaping to establish its own identity.

Unlike James Conlon on a rival coupling of the same two works with the Cologne Giirzenich Orchestra (EMI—nla), Martyn Brabbins plays the B flat Symphony’s long first-movement exposition repeat, which brings its total timing to an imposing 16'26" (against 12'11" on Conlon’s recording) … Zemlinsky’s scoring is both rich and detailed, and when he draws his forces together for the biggest climaxes one senses that he knows exactly w'hat he is doing. Those readers wedded to the great Austro-German Romantics are likely to find this coupling irresistible' (Gramophone)» More

'Martyn Brabbins has a strong empathy for Zemlinsky’s musical language, demonstrating a masterly control of pacing in each movement … the present release can be confidently recommended for the refined and subtle playing of the BBC NOW and a recording that achieves an ideal balance between textural clarity and Romantic warmth' (BBC Music Magazine)» More
PERFORMANCE
RECORDING

'You may know about the life of Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942): born full of promise in old Vienna, dying disappointed and neglected in émigré New York, brother-in-law of Schoenberg, lover of Alma Schindler who ditched him for Mahler. But there are increasing attempts to address this imbalance, with some of Zemlinsky's prominent, later works—the 'Lyric' Symphony and the tone poem The Mermaid—now programmed regularly. These two early symphonies, played with the right degree of late-Romantic lushness and fluency by the BBC NOW under Martyn Brabbins, place him firmly in that fascinating stylistic crevice between Brahms and Mahler. Whether you see him as a footnote to the 19th century or a prelude to the 20th, the music has a variety and melodic warmth which is well worth exploring' (The Observer)

'Those wanting the two symphonies will find the present release, with lustrous sound courtesy of Cardiff’s Hoddinott Hall and decent booklet notes by Gavin Plumley, admirably fills a gap in their collection' (International Record Review)» More

'The long shadow of Brahms fell over the many rising composers in Vienna at the end of the 19th century, and his special influence on Alexander Zemlinsky is clear in the younger musician’s two completed symphonies, here played with Brahmsian breadth and sway by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, conducted by Martyn Brabbins … the symphonies in D minor and B flat major are colourful pieces in the rich turn-of-the-century mosaic of Austrian art' (The Independent on Sunday)» More

'Both works are played for all they are worth … worth investigating for offbeat glimpses into Viennese composition in transition' (The Sunday Times)

'The Symphony in B flat is impressive … the descending horn call at the start is such a simple yet memorable idea—nostalgic, bucolic, bidding farewell to a musical culture and tradition already on the wane. The ensuing Allegro has infectious swagger, the Scherzando has Mahlerian bounce and the Adagio is marvellous … Hyperion's sound is glowing—one of the richest recordings they've issued. Martyn Brabbins's BBC Welsh players raise the roof in the noisier climaxes, and the notes are excellent. Lovely sleeve art too' (TheArtsDesk.com)
Having completed his ‘first’ Symphony, Zemlinsky did indeed continue to ‘compose in as Brahmsian a manner as possible’, writing a Symphony in B flat major in 1897, the year that Brahms died. But while its finale clearly pays homage to Brahms by invoking the passacaglia from his Fourth Symphony, the work as a whole, written in Payerbach an der Rax, betrays a much wider sphere of influence. The first movement’s nods to Dvorák keep Zemlinsky within the Brahmsian fold, yet the call of Siegfried and the Mastersingers from the Hofoper across the Ringstrasse is equally unmistakable. Following a mellifluous introduction, these parties duke it out within the confident opening Allegro.

The scherzo is a chattering and occasionally brusque dance, with a more civilized alter ego. That Ländlerisch trio shows muted kinship with Mahler, whose First Symphony had already been heard in Budapest, Hamburg, Weimar and Berlin by the time that Zemlinsky was at work on his second contribution to the genre. The dreamy slow movement, showing a particularly expressive use of brass, soothes the tensions of the scherzo, instead calling on the music of the first movement. Previously headstrong heroism is now cast in nobler terms, before strings and curling flutes throw a melancholy light over the material.

The finale appears doubly energetic in the slow movement’s wake, striding ahead with a series of twenty-six variations. Unlike the seamless close to Brahms’s Fourth Symphony, however, there is something rather breathless about this episodic finale. Nonetheless, Zemlinsky shows great imagination, both in terms of developing the material and in his diverse use of the orchestra. And, as in his D minor Symphony, he concludes in an audacious manner, combining the principal theme from the first and third movements with the finale’s dynamic ostinato.

The B flat major Symphony won the prestigious Beethoven Prize (financed by Brahms and sponsored by the Tonkünstlerverein), but it is a work firmly rooted in the nineteenth century. Certainly things were about to change, as Zemlinsky commented in 1922: ‘Then came a reaction, of course. With the struggle to find oneself, there was also an emphatic repudiation of Brahms. And there were periods when the reverence and admiration for Brahms metamorphosed into the very opposite.’

from notes by Gavin Plumley © 2014

Une fois sa «première» symphonie achevée, Zemlinsky continua à «composer d’une manière aussi brahmsienne que possible», rédigeant une Symphonie en si bémol majeur en 1897, année de la mort de Brahms. Malgré un finale rendant clairement hommage à ce compositeur (passacaille de la Symphonie nº 4), cette œuvre, écrite à Payerbach an der Rax, trahit une sphère d’influence bien plus large. Les clins d’œil à Dvorák, dans le premier mouvement, maintiennent Zemlinsky dans le giron brahmsien, mais l’appel de Siegfried et des Maîtres-chanteurs, depuis la Hofoper, de l’autre côté de la Ringstrasse, est tout aussi patent. Autant de factions qui, passé une introduction mélodieuse, s’esquivent dans le confiant Allegro initial.

Le scherzo est une danse babillarde, parfois brusque, avec un alter ego davantage civilisé. Ce trio ländlerisch montre une parenté voilée avec Mahler, dont la Symphonie nº 1 avait déjà été entendue à Budapest, Hambourg, Weimar et Berlin. Le langoureux mouvement lent, aux cuivres particulièrement expressifs, soulage les tensions du scherzo au lieu de faire appel à la musique du premier mouvement. L’héroïsme auparavant impétueux est désormais coulé en termes plus majestueux, avant que cordes et flûtes en spirales ne jettent une lueur mélancolique sur le matériau.

Après ce mouvement lent, le finale paraît doublement énergique, avançant avec une série de vingt-six variations. Pourtant, ce finale épisodique a quelque chose d’essoufflé, contrairement à la conclusion homogène de la Symphonie nº 4 de Brahms. Zemlinsky n’en montre pas moins une belle imagination, dans le développement du matériau comme dans l’usage diversifié de l’orchestre. Et, comme dans sa Symphonie en ré mineur, il termine audacieusement, en combinant le thème principal des premier et troisième mouvements avec l’ostinato dynamique du finale.

La Symphonie en si bémol majeur remporta le prestigieux prix Beethoven (financé par Brahms et parrainé par le Tonkünstlerverein), mais elle est solidement ancrée dans le XIXe siècle. Les choses n’allaient pas manquer de changer, comme l’observa Zemlinsky en 1922: «Il y eut, bien sûr, une réaction. Le combat pour se trouver s’accompagna d’un vigoureux rejet de Brahms. Et, à certains moments, la révérence et l’admiration accordées à Brahms se muèrent en leur exact contraire.»

extrait des notes rédigées par Gavin Plumley © 2014
Français: Hypérion

Nach der Vollendung seiner „ersten“ Sinfonie fuhr Zemlinsky fort, so „Brahmsisch als nur möglich zu komponieren“ und schrieb 1897, im Todesjahr von Brahms, die Sinfonie in B-Dur. Während jedoch der Finalsatz mit dem Anklang an die Passacaglia aus der Vierten Sinfonie von Brahms eindeutig dem älteren Komponisten huldigt, läßt das in Payerbach an der Rax geschriebene Werk einen größeren Einflußbereich erkennen. Mit den Verweisen auf Dvorák im ersten Satz bleibt Zemlinsky im Bereich von Brahms, doch der Lockruf von Siegfried und die Meistersinger aus der Hofoper gegenüber an der Ringstrasse ist ebenso unverkennbar. Nach einer weichfließenden Einleitung treffen diese Gegensätze im souveränen Kopfsatz (Allegro) aufeinander.

Das Scherzo ist ein plappernder und gelegentlich schroffer Tanz mit einem zurückhaltenderen Alter Ego. Das Trio (Ländlerisch) zeigt eine entfernte Verwandtschaft mit Mahler, dessen Erste Sinfonie bereits in Budapest, Hamburg, Weimar und Berlin um die Zeit gespielt wurde, als Zemlinsky an seiner Zweiten Sinfonie schrieb. Der träumerische langsame Satz mildert mit besonders ausdrucksvollen Blechbläsern die Spannungen des Scherzos und erinnert eher an die Musik des ersten Satzes. Der zuvor starrköpfige heroische Charakter nimmt nun noblere Züge an, ehe Streicher und Flötengirlanden das Material melancholisch beleuchten.

Nach dem langsamen Satz erscheint der Finalsatz mit seinen 26 Variationen doppelt dynamisch. Anders als der nahtlose Schluß von Brahms’ Vierter Sinfonie hat dieses episodische Finale jedoch eine gewisse Atemlosigkeit. Gleichwohl zeigt Zemlinsky großen Einfallsreichtum, sowohl in der Entwicklung des Materials als auch in der vielfältigen Orchestrierung. Wie in seiner d-Moll-Sinfonie ist auch hier der Schluß kühn, indem das Hauptthema jeweils des ersten und des dritten Satzes mit dem dynamischen Ostinato des Finales kombiniert wird.

Die B-Dur-Sinfonie gewann den namhaften Beethoven-Preis (finanziert von Brahms und gefördert vom Tonkünstlerverein); doch wurzelt das Werk fest im 19. Jahrhundert. Das sollte sich zweifellos ändern; so meinte Zemlinsky 1922: „Dann kam natürlich eine Reaktion. Mit dem Bestreben, sich selbst zu finden, war auch eine energische Wendung von Brahms weg gegeben. Und es gab Zeiten, wo die Verehrung und Bewunderung für Brahms ins förmliche Gegenteil umschlug.“

aus dem Begleittext von Gavin Plumley © 2014
Deutsch: Christiane Frobenius

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