Bridge's Songs by Zemlinsky is a fast-moving recital of Alexander Zemlinsky's early songs, dating from 1889 to 1913, and featuring the talents of soprano Hermine Haselböck and pianist Florian Henschel. The work of Zemlinsky is often measured by the yardstick of his son-in-law and sometime pupil, Arnold Schoenberg, and while it provides a convenient handle to get a grip on Zemlinsky, it really isn't fair to typify either their relationship or their music this way. When it comes to composing lieder, however, this disc seems to indicate that Zemlinsky was far more assured than his student, at least as long as Schoenberg continued to compose songs that were post-romantic and tonal. Zemlinsky's song writing is strongly responsive to the texts and confident in approach; by comparison, Schoenberg seems to be straining to break out of the box and with his The Book of the Hanging Gardens, Op. 15, he finally did so. That certainly is no reason to neglect the many fine songs heard here; the Sechs Gesänge nach Texten von Maurice Maeterlinck, Op. 13 (1910-1913), is particularly interesting owing to its very slight ingestion of impressionistic ideas, but the Fünf Lieder (1895-1996) are also exceptional in a collection that is impressive overall. Bridge's Songs by Zemlinsky, with its generous selection of 26 lieder, demonstrates that when it came to song, Zemlinsky was neither hanging on to a departed model of songwriting nor struggling toward an ineffable vision of what the future might hold. Zemlinsky was an expert practitioner within a style of lied that was still very much alive in his day, and to which he added a distinct voice that retains its freshness even though most of these works haven't been heard in more than a century. Haselböck's interpretations of these lied are buoyant and engaged with the text; she imbues each performance with the requisite emotion without sounding arch or grotesque.
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AllMusic Review by Uncle Dave Lewis
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