So it is time to introduce a little culture into the AAAC. And what better place to start off the journey into the wide world of classical music than....
Always last in the CD racks now, he was also in the shadows during his life and more famous for the people he was connected to than for himself. He went after Alma Schindler (who later married Mahler), then wrote Ein Florentische Tragedie as a barely disguised portrayal of the time she slapped it up with the architect Walter Gropius, and he was the brother in law of Arnold Schoenberg (who upstaged the premiere of Die Seejungfrau as his tone poem on Pelleas et Melisande, an absolute landmark piece in music history and a complete work of genius, was also premiered in the same concert leading to Zemlinsky withdrawing his piece and it being forgotten until it was rediscovered in the 1980s).
To give the background to the Lyric Symphony, in the early 1920s Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet, was doing a reading tour around Europe including his set of poems The Gardener. Zemlinksy took seven of these poems in their German translation and formed them into a continuous narrative for the Lyric Symphony, with alternate movements for male and female voice with orchestra. Call it a concept album if you want to belittle it with prog stylings, but it does need to be listened to as a whole.
Musically, we are in fin de siecle Vienna so deep in expressionism and it shows. The range of emotions and tonal colours in the work is huge. Don't expect moderately pleasant pretty background music for a fat nobleman's post meal entertainment, this digs a whole lot deeper to the point of being downright unsettling at times. There isn't any real reference to the nationality of Tagore in the musical style (unlike Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde re the Chinese sources of the poetry he used) but then there doesn't need to be.
This particular recording is as good as any, winning accolades all over the place when it came out. Eschenbach really gets the sense of it being a piece as a whole, and both singers are spot on. Christine Schafer in particular can properly let fly when required. In terms of sound quality, apart from being a little "wall of sound" in the big bits it is spot on all the way up and down the dynamic range (another reason to wind it up in the big bits so the quieter sections like the ending still keep their intensity).
Unfortunately, while it is still available as a standard rate download the SACD (which I have) is now out of print and apparently being sold used for silly amounts on Amataxdodgers. Hopefully the following link should work for spotify
or apparently not, but it does seem to be on there. Hopefully someone can also pull up a link on Tidal or whatever and make the Spotty work properly.
Oh yes, it contains flutes because it is a symphony so of course it does. Enjoy.