Movement 1: Allegro ma non troppo
Movement 2: Allegro scherzando
Movement 3: Sehr innig und breit
Movement 4: Moderato
The opening movement is a bold sonata form construction, shunning any claims of academicism with its gripping dramatic intent. The noble first subject is followed by a flowing second subject, both packed with developmental potential. Keen to show his investigative credentials, though, Zemlinsky immediately starts examining constituent motifs, a process which potentially robs the development proper of its purpose. This was partly reflective of Robert Fuchs’s idea of motivic economy, which Zemlinsky explores in a particularly expressive manner, looking forward to Schoenberg’s idea of ‘developing variation’. Yet the middle section of the movement is no wallflower, featuring violent shifts between major and minor, eventually heralding the thunderous recapitulation and a long exhausted coda.
The ensuing scherzo in F major, starting with the rising fourth that began the entire Symphony, flaunts syncopation in a manner not dissimilar to Brahms’s Bohemian friend Dvorák, while the trio, in D flat major, is the work of a thoroughbred ‘Brahmin’. The slow movement tries to preserve the unruffled air of a Bruckner Adagio, though it is haunted by the impulsive mood of the first movement. Something of that disquiet remains in the initial stretches of the finale, but rather than resolving the tensions, Zemlinsky shrugs them off, ending with a bold if not entirely fully earned coda.
from notes by Gavin Plumley © 2014