Michael Gielen

Zemlinsky: Lyric Symphony; Berg: Three Pieces for the "Lyric Suite"; Five Orchestra Songs

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Released in 1995, these splendid recordings of Alexander Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony in Seven Songs, Op. 18; the Three Pieces from Alban Berg's Lyric Suite, and his Five Orchestral Songs after Texts from Postcards, Op. 4 -- better known as the Altenberg Lieder, after the author of their texts -- are welcome offerings on this budget label, especially because the performances are first-rate and deserve serious attention. The distinguished maestro Michael Gielen commandingly leads the SWR Symphony Orchestra in these post-Romantic and Expressionist masterworks and draws out the magnificent post-Mahlerian sonorities Zemlinsky and Berg both required to convey their complex ideas. Soprano Vlatka Orsanic and baritone James Johnson are rapturous, dramatic, and fiercely passionate in their performances, which may remind listeners in places of operatic singing in intensity. But the real drama -- suggested in Zemlinsky, but obvious in Berg -- is in the rich orchestral accompaniments, which churn and pulse with the deeper, darker emotions that single voices can only partly convey. The sound quality is terrific, too, so this recording is a winner on all counts and a real bargain at the low price.

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