Wednesday, October 14, 8871

Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942)

Alexander [von] Zemlinsky (October 14, 1871, Vienna, Austria - March 15, 1942) was born to a highly multicultural family. Zemlinsky's grandfather, Anton Semlinski, immigrated from Žilina, Hungary (now in Slovakia) to Austria and married an Austrian woman.

Both were from staunchly Roman Catholic families, and Alexander's father, Adolf, was reared as a Catholic. Alexander's mother was born in Sarajevo to a Sephardic Jewish father and a Bosnian Muslim mother. Alexander's entire family converted to the religion of his grandfather, Judaism, and Zemlinsky was born and raised Jewish. His father added an aristocratic "von" to his name, though neither he nor his forebears were ennobled. He also began spelling his surname with a "Z."

Alexander studied the piano from a young age. He played the organ in his synagogue on holidays, and was admitted to the Vienna Conservatory in 1884. He studied piano with Anton Door, winning the school's piano prize in 1890. He continued his studies until 1892, studying theory with Robert Fuchs and composition with Johann Nepomuk Fuchs and

Anton Bruckner.

At this time he began writing music.

Zemlinsky had a valuable supporter in Johannes Brahms. In 1893, On the invitation of Zemlinsky's teacher Johann Nepomuk Fuchs, Brahms attended a performance of Zemlinsky's Symphony in D Minor. Soon after that, Brahms attended a performance of one of Zemlinky's quartets by the Hellmesberger Quartet.

Zemlinsky also met Arnold Schoenberg when the latter joined Polyhymnia, an orchestra in which he played cello and helped found in 1894. The two became close friends and mutual admirers. Zemlinsky gave Schoenberg lessons in counterpoint at this time, thus becoming the only formal music teacher Schoenberg would have.

Brahms, impressed with Zemlinsky's music, recommended the younger composer's Clarinet Trio (1896) to the Simrock company for publication.

In 1897 Zemlinsky's Symphony No. 2 (chronologically the third he had written, and sometimes numbered as such) was a success when premiered in Vienna. Two years later, Zemlinsky secured the post of Kapellmeister in the city's Carltheater.

That year Schoenberg began a relationship with Zemlinsky's sister


His reputation as a composer was further helped when Gustav Mahler conducted the premiere of his opera Es war einmal... (Once Upon a Time) at the Hofoper in 1900.

That year Zemlinsky met and fell in love with Alma Schindler, one of his composition students. She reciprocated his feelings initially; however, Alma felt a great deal of pressure from close friends and family to end the relationship.

They were primarily concerned with Zemlinsky's lack of an international reputation and by his physical appearance.

As this was transpiring, Schoenberg married

Mathilde in 1901, becoming brothers-in-law with Alexander. Zemlinsky's ballet Der Triumph der Zeit dates from this time.

No such marriage luck for Zemlinsky however, as Alma broke off their relationship, and subsequently married

Mahler in 1902.

Zemlinsky's large-scale symphonic poem Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid) was premiered in 1905 in the same concert as Schoenberg's Pelleas und Melisande, and was considered "lost" until 1984, since when it has become one of Zemlinsky's most frequently performed scores.

In 1906 Zemlinsky was appointed first Kapellmeister of the new Vienna Volksoper. The next year he married Ida Guttmann, but the marriage was an unhappy one.

From 1911 to 1927, he was conductor at Deutsches Landestheater in Prague.

In 1914, at the outset of World War I, he began giving singing lessons to Luise Sachsel, a woman 29 years his junior. Stay tuned.

Works of this period include two of his eight operas: Eine Florentinische Tragödie (1915–16) and the semi-autobiographical Der Zwerg (The Dwarf, 1921), both after

Oscar Wilde)


Zemlinsky's best-known work is the Lyric Symphony, Op. 22 (1922) -- a seven-movement piece for soprano, baritone, and orchestra -- set to poems by the Bengali poet

Rabindranath Tagore (in German translation), which Zemlinsky compared in a letter to his publisher to Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde (though the first part of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder is also a clear influence).

The work in turn influenced Alban Berg's Lyric Suite, which quotes from the symphony's third movement and is dedicated to Zemlinsky.

The symphony received its premiere in June 1924 in Prague under the composer's direction.

The seven connected movements are scored for baritone and soprano soloists in addition to the standard orchestra; the texts are in translations by Hans Effenberger.

The movements are:

I. Ich bin friedlos, ich bin durstig nach fernen Dingen

II. O Mutter, der junge Prinz'

III. Du bist die Abendwolke

IV. Sprich zu mir Geliebter

V. Befrei mich von den Banden deiner Süsse, Lieb

VI. Vollende denn das letzte Lied

VII. Friede, mein Herz

The work calls for soprano, baritone, and a large orchestra consisting of: 4 flutes (3 and 4 doubling piccolos), 2 oboes, English horn, 3 clarinets in A (3 doubling E-flat clarinet), bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns in F, 3 trumpets in C, 3 trombones, bass tuba, timpani, percussion (including bass drum, tamtam, cymbals and xylophone), harmonium, celesta, harp and Strings. In the Lyric Symphony Zemlinsky makes notable use of the glissando effect in both strings and trombones.


I. (Baritone)

Ich bin friedlos, ich bin durstig nach fernen Dingen.
Meine Seele schweift in Sehnsucht,
Den Saum der dunklen Weite zu berühren.
O großes Jenseits, o ungestürmes Rufen Deiner Flöte.
Ich vergesse, ich vergesse immer,
Daß ich keine Schwingen zum Fliegen habe,
Daß ich an dieses Stück Erde gefesselt bin
Für alle Zeit.
Ich bin voll Verlangen und wachsam,
Ich bin ein Fremder im fremden Land;
Dein Odem kommt zu mir
Und raunt mir unmögliche Hoffnungen zu.
Deine Sprache klingt meinem Herzen vertraut
Wie seine eig'ne.
O Ziel in Fernen, o ungestümes Rufen deiner Flöte.
Ich vergesse immer, ich vergesse,
Daß ich nicht den Weg weiß,
Daß ich das beschwingte Roß nicht habe.
Ich bin ruhlos, ich bin ein Wanderer in meinem Herzen.
Im sonnigen Nebel der zögernden Stunden
Welch gewaltiges Gesicht von dir wird gestaltet
In der Bläue des Himmels.
O fernstes Ende, o ungestümes Rufen deiner Flöte.
Ich vergesse, ich vergesse immer,
Daß die Türen überall verschlossen sind in dem Hause,
Wo ich einsam wohne, o fernstes Ende,
O ungestümes Rufen deiner Flöte.

I am restless. I am athirst for far-away things.
My soul goes out in a longing
to touch the skirt of the dim distance.
O Great Beyond, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget,
that I have no wings to fly,
that I am bound in this spot

I am eager and wakeful,
I am a stranger in a strange land.
Thy breath comes to me
whispering an impossible hope.
Thy tongue is known to my heart
as its very own.
O Far-to-seek, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget,
that I know not the way,
that I have not the winged horse.

I am listless, I am a wanderer in my heart.
In the sunny haze of the languid hours,
what vast vision of thine takes shape
in the blue of the sky!
O Farthest end, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget,
that the gates are shut everywhere in the house
where I dwell alone!

II. (Soprano)

Mutter, der junge Prinz
Muß an unsrer Türe vorbeikommen,
Wie kann ich diesen Morgen auf meine Arbeit acht geben.
Zeig mir, wie soll mein Haar ich flechten;
Zeig mir, was soll ich für Kleider anziehen?
Warum schaust du mich so verwundert an, Mutter?
Ich weiß wohl, er wird nicht ein einz'ges mal
Zu meinem Fenster aufblicken.
Ich weiß, im Nu wird er mir aus den Augen sein;
Nur das verhallende Flötenspiel
Wird seufzend zu mir dringen von weitem.
Aber der junge Prinz wird bei uns vorüberkommen,
Und ich will mein bestes anziehn
Für diesen Augenblick.
Mutter, der junge Prinz ist an unsrer Türe vorbeigekommen,
Und die Morgensonne blitzte an seinem Wagen.
Ich strich den Schleier aus meinem Gesicht,
Riß die Rubinenkette von meinem Hals
Und warf sie ihm in den Weg.
Warum schaust du mich so verwundert an, Mutter?
Ich weiß wohl, daß er meine Kette nicht aufhob.
Ich weiß, sie ward unter den Rädern zermalmt
Und ließ eine rote Spur im Staube zurück.
Und niemand weiß, was mein Geschenk war und wer es gab.
Aber der junge Prinz kam an unsrer Tür vorüber
Und ich hab' den Schmuck von meiner Brust
Ihm in den Weg geworfen.

O mother, the young Prince is to pass by our door, --
how can I attend to my work this morning?
Show me how to braid up my hair;
tell me what garment to put on.
Why do you look at me amazed, mother?
I know well he will not glance up once at my window;
I know he will pass out of my sight in the twinkling of an eye;
only the vanishing strain of the flute
will come sobbing to me from afar.
But the young Prince will pass by our door,
and I will put on my best for the moment.

O mother, the young Prince did pass by our door,
and the morning sun flashed from his chariot.
I swept aside the veil from my face,
I tore the ruby chain from my neck
and flung it in his path.
Why do you look at me amazed, mother?
I know well he did not pick up my chain;
I know it was crushed under his wheels
leaving a red stain upon the dust,
and no one knows what my gift was nor to whom.
But the young Prince did pass by our door,
and I flung the jewel from my breast before his path.

III. (Baritone)

Du bist die Abendwolke,
Die am Himmel meiner Träume hinzieht.
Ich schmücke dich und kleide dich
Immer mit den Wünschen meiner Seele;
Du bist mein Eigen,
Du, die in meinen endlosen Träumen wohnt.
Deine Füße sind rosigrot
Von der Glut meines sehnsüchtigen Herzens,
Du, die meine Abendlieder erntet,
Deine Lippen sind bittersüß
Vom Geschmack des Weins aus meinen Leiden.
Du bist mein Eigen, mein Eigen.
Du, die in meinen einsamen Träumen wohnt,
Mit dem Schatten meiner Leidenschaft
Hab' ich deine Augen geschwärzt,
Gewohnter Gast in meines Blickes Tiefe.
Ich hab' dich gefangen und dich eingesponnen,
Geliebte, in das Netz meiner Musik.
Du bist mein Eigen, mein Eigen.
Du, die in meinen unsterblichen Träumen wohnt.

You are the evening cloud
floating in the sky of my dreams.
I paint you and fashion you
ever with my love longings.
You are my own, my own,
Dweller in my endless dreams!

Your feet are rosy-red
with the glow of my heart's desire,
Gleaner of my sunset songs!
Your lips are bitter-sweet
with the taste of my wine of pain.
You are my own, my own,
Dweller in my lonesome dreams!

With the shadow of my passion
have I darkened your eyes,
Haunter of the depth of my gaze!
I have caught you and wrapt you,
my love, in the net of my music.
You are my own, my own,
Dweller in my deathless dreams!

IV. (Soprano)

Sprich zu mir Geliebter,
Sag mir mit Worten, was du sangest.
Die Nacht ist dunkel,
Die Sterne sind im Wolken verloren,
Der Wind seufzt durch die Blätter.
Ich will mein Haar lösen,
Mein blauer Mantel wird dich umschmiegen wie Nacht.
Ich will deinen Kopf an meine Brust schließen,
Und hier, in der süßen Einsamkeit
Laß das Herz reden.
Ich will meine Augen zumachen und lauschen,
Ich will nicht in dein Antlitz schauen.
Wenn deine Worte zu Ende sind,
Wollen wir still und schweigend sitzen,
Nur die Bäume werden im Dunkel flüstern,
Die Nacht wird bleichen, der Tag wird dämmern,
Wir werden einander in die Augen schauen
Und jeder seines Weges ziehn.
Sprich zu mir, Geliebter.

Speak to me, my love!
Tell me in words what you sang.
The night is dark.
The stars are lost in clouds.
The wind is sighing through the leaves.
I will let loose my hair.
My blue cloak will cling round me like the night.
I will clasp your head to my bosom;
And there in the sweet loneliness
murmur on your heart.
I will shut my eyes and listen.
I will not look in your face.
When your words are ended,
we will sit still and silent.
Only the trees will whisper in the dark.
[The night will pale.] The day will dawn.
We shall look at each other's eyes
and go on our different paths.
Speak to me, my love! Tell me in words what you sang.

V. (Baritone)

Befrei mich von den Banden deiner Süße, Lieb!
Nicht mehr von diesem Wein der Küsse,
Dieser Nebel von schwerem Weihrauch erstickt mein Herz.
Öffne die Türe, mach Platz für das Morgenlicht.
Ich bin in dich verloren,
Eingefangen in die Umarmungen deiner Zärtlichkeit.
Befrei mich von deinem Zauber
Und gib mir den Mut zurück,
Dir mein befreites Herz darzubieten.

Free me from the bonds of your sweetness, my love!
No more of this wine of kisses.
This mist of heavy incense stifles my heart.
Open the doors, make room for the morning light.
I am lost in you,
wrapped in the folds of your caresses.
Free me from your spells,
and give me back the manhood
to offer you my freed heart.

VI. (Soprano)

Vollende denn das letzte Lied
Und laß uns auseinander gehn,
Vergiß diese Nacht, wenn die Nacht um ist.
Wen müh' ich mich mit meinen Armen zu umfassen?
Träume lassen sich nicht einfangen,
Meine gierigen Hände drücken Leere an mein Herz
Und es zermürbt meine Brust.

Then finish the last song
and let us leave.
Forget this night when the night is no more.
Whom do I try to clasp in my arms?
Dreams can never be made captive.
My eager hands press emptiness
to my heart and it bruises my breast.

VII. (Baritone)

Friede, mein Herz,
Laß die Zeit für das Schneiden süß sein,
Laß es nicht einen Tod sein,
Sondern Vollendung.
Laß Liebe in Erinn'rung schmelzen
Und Schmerz in Lieder.
Laß die letzte Berührung deiner Hände sanft sein,
Wie die Blume der Nacht.
Steh still, steh still, o wundervolles Ende,
Für einen Augenblick
Und sage deine letzten Worte in Schweigen.
Ich neige mich vor dir
Ich halte meine Lampe in die Höhe,
Um dir auf deinen Weg zu leuchten.

Peace, my heart,
let the time for the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death
but completeness.
Let love melt into memory
and pain into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end
in the folding of the wings over the nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be gentle
like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End,
for a moment,
and say your last words in silence.
I bow to you
and hold up my lamp
to light you on your way.


"This summer I've written something along the lines of The Song of the Earth"

Thus wrote Zemlinsky to Emil Hertzka in September, 1922. From the beginning, it is clear that Zemlinsky wrote Lyrische Symphonie with Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde in mind. The result is something so similar yet very different.

Taken from a German edition of The Gardener, a selection of loose translation of Rabindranath Tagore's Bengali lyrics, Lyrische Symphonie tells us about experiences of love. At first glance, it resembles Das Lied, especially because of the alternating male-female vocal soloists.

However, the differences between them are far greater, in thhe way Zemlinsky handles the poems,uses the orchestra, and even considers the term "symphony."

Cast in one-movement with three-part structure, Lyrische Symphonie is Zemlinsky's own, and for many, represents his best work. Unlike Das Lied, the orchestral background is thick and complex, although it still has some chamber scoring.

The first two movements are about desires. The first movement, sung by the tenor, tells about a lonely man in his own world, desperately seeking for a companion. Similar to the opening of Das Lied, this music begins with the burst from orchestra, but settles into a world, unlike the Mahler, of sadness and loneliness.

From a quiet and cheerful melody, the second movement poetically complements the one, telling the tale of a young woman, desperately trying to alert her mother to the presence of a prince passing by her house, whom she attempts hopelessly to attract. She even throws away her ruby necklace in order to do that, but only to find it crushed by the prince's wheels.

The third and the fourth movements are complementary love songs, linked by a beautiful passage for solo violin.

The last three movements deal with the desire for freedom, separation and resignation respectively. The music becomes violent as it enters the short fifth movement, about a man who tries to break free from constraint.

In the subsequent music, the main theme from the first movement emerges again in an ironic state, before transitioning to the final section

"Let it not be a death but completeness" sings the baritone in the seventh and last song. When the poem is finished, the orchestra raises itself to a grindingly dissonant climax, and then, at a signal from the gong, tonalityseems for a few bars to dissolve. But the bass A continues, and slowly the song's tonic D re-emerges. The threat of harmonic dissolution is balanced by a richly expanded tonality.


Zemlinsky premiered Schoenberg's Erwartung in 1924. In 1927, Zemlinsky moved to Berlin, where he taught and worked under Otto Klemperer as a conductor at the Kroll Opera.

Following Ida's death in 1929, Zemlinsky married Luise Sachsel the next year. This was a much happier relationship, lasting until Zemlinsky's death.

With the rise of the Nazi Party, he fled to Vienna in 1933, where he held no official post, instead concentrating on composing and making the occasional appearance as guest conductor.

A three-movement Sinfonietta written in 1934, admired by Schoenberg and Berg, is written in a style comparable to contemporary works by

Paul Hindemith and

Kurt Weill.

In 1938 he moved to the United States and settled in New York City. While fellow émigré Schoenberg was celebrated and feted in the Los Angeles of the 1930's and 40's -- teaching at UCLA and USC and gaining a new generation of acolytes -- Zemlinsky was neglected and virtually unknown in his adopted country. He fell ill, suffering a series of strokes, and ceased composing. Zemlinsky died in Larchmont, New York of pneumonia.

Among his works are chamber music (including four string quartets), three psalm settings for chorus and orchestra, and numerous song cycles, both with piano and with orchestra, of which the Sechs Gesänge op. 13 to texts by Maurice Maeterlinck is the best-known.

While the influence of Brahms is evoked in Zemlinsky's early works (prompting encouragement from Brahms himself), an original voice is present from the first works on, handling dissonances in a much freer manner than Brahms. Later works adopt the kind of extended harmonies that Wagner had introduced whilst also drawing influence from Mahler. In contrast to his friend Schoenberg, he never wrote atonal music, and never used the 12-tone technique. However, late works such as the Symphonische Gesänge, Sinfonietta, and String Quartet No. 3 and 4 move away from postromanticism towards a leaner, harder-edged idiom that incorporates elements of neoclasscism and jazz.

As a conductor, Zemlinsky was admired by, among others, Kurt Weill and Igor

Stravinsky, not only for his notable interpretations of Mozart, but also for his advocacy of Mahler [!], Schoenberg, and much other contemporary music. As a teacher, his pupils included

Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Hans Krasa, and Karl Weigl.

Zemlinsky's music has slowly been rediscovered due to a series of performances and recordings (primarily by EMI) since the 1990's.

[8872 Vaughan Williams / 8871 Zemlinsky / 8870 Bloom - Snake Charmer]