Martyn Brabbins / BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Alexander Zemlinsky: Symphonies in D minor and B flat major

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AllMusic Review by James Manheim

These two symphonies by Alexander Zemlinsky, early works, have been recorded a number of times. They may be more enjoyable for performers, delighted to discover well-executed orchestral music of late-Romantic dimensions, than for audiences, but those whose interest has been snared by the ongoing revival of interest in this composer, Schoenberg's brother-in-law and one of the many lovers of Alma Mahler Gropius Werfel will find worthwhile performances here. The Symphony No. 1 in D minor, completed in 1893, is very much a student work. Brahms attended the premiere, and it's clear why he liked it: with its thematically complex first movement, dance-like Scherzo, inward slow movement, and melodically warm finale, it is definitely in a Brahmsian vein. The Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, although more explicitly a tribute to the by-then recently deceased Brahms (the passacaglia finale specifically recalls the Brahms Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 90) is a more independent work that tries to find a way between Brahmsian formal genius and the increasingly chromatic language of Strauss. It doesn't hold together the way Brahms does, but it's not dull. Both works receive deliberate performances from conductor Martyn Brabbins and the BBC National of Wales, who may easily inspire other orchestras to take up this music.

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