Zemlinsky: Die Seejungfrau
Recording with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, September 22, 2022, Gothenburg Concert Hall.
Zemlinsky was fascinated by the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Here we get to hear his imaginative representation of the tale of the mermaid who saves the life of a prince when his ship sinks. The music evokes a sense of both the stormy emotions and the powerful waves of the violent sea. The orchestra is led by Ryan Bancroft, who will be the new Chief Conductor of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra from the 2023-2024 season.
Alexander von Zemlinsky is one of the gifted Jewish composers from the turn of the last century whose music was labelled “degenerate” by the Nazis. He taught composition and orchestration (Arnold Schoenberg was one of his students), and was also a conductor, primarily in Vienna. In Die Seejungfrau, The Mermaid, he uses all of his knowledge to convey water and longing. The brush strokes are broad, with a melody beginning in the cello that moves up to the violins and concludes in a solo instrument. At other times, the entire orchestra is a disturbed ocean. In this story, the symphony orchestra is as key to setting the mood as in a movie about outer space. The mermaid longs to reach the surface; the sea witch lurks in the depths, and the mermaid’s love for the prince is so strong that she sacrifices first her entire watery world, then her fish tail, and ultimately her very life for love.