This is Alexander Zemlinsky's high romantic masterpiece, a symphonic drama-cum-orchestral song cycle that owes something both to his Viennese fellow conductor Gustav Mahler's 'Song of the Earth', and to his pupil Schoenberg's 'Gurrelieder'...yet while Schoenberg was looking to atonality and his 12-tone system to design his way out of a 20th century tonal crisis, his teacher went another way, as we hear so clearly in this lushly orchestrated work.
You'll hear elements of Mahler and Strauss, Brahms and Wagner, yet Zemlinsky remains his own man as he sets texts from 'The Gardener' by the Bengali poet Tagore. It's a dialogue between a prince and a girl who love each other, yet have to part; her love is true, while his is idealistic and unsustainable.
The journey is so richly, passionately and beautifully scored it will take your breath away...and the ending is a marvel: a satisfying climax, a languorously elongated last cadence, and a magically worked final orchestral sigh.
Christoph Eschenbach teases the most sensuous playing from his orchestra, while in Christine Schafer and Matthias Goerne he has two of the most expressively intelligent and accurate singers you could wish for.
The recording allows the performance to glow, and as atmospheric and airy as it is in stereo, listening in surround from the SACD layer immerses you in the ambience in the most satisfying way. If to you Zemlinsky is famous more for his pupils' achievements than his own, then this will be a revelatory experience, and I know already that it's one of my discs of the year.
Like This? Try These:
Berg: Wozzeck (Philharmonia/Daniel)
R Strauss: Orchestral Songs (Soile Isokoski)
Shchedrin: Carmen Suite (Russian National Orchestra/Pletnev)