Main content
Sorry, this episode is not currently available

Donald Macleod focuses on the tangled love affair between Zemlinsky and Alma Schindler, who left the composer heartbroken when she abandoned him to marry Gustav Mahler.

Donald Macleod unpicks the tangled love affair between Zemlinsky and Alma Schindler, who left the composer heartbroken when she abandoned him to marry Gustav Mahler.

Alexander Zemlinsky may have been famously ugly. But his music is amongst the most beautiful, intense and passionate ever written. Pilloried through his life for his gawky, bespectacled appearance and diminutive stature, he lived a life in the shadow of his friend and brother-in-law Arnold Schoenberg, and his one-time lover, the beautiful socialite Alma Mahler. "My time will come after my death", the composer said - and in the last half century audiences have come to love the shimmering details and epic Romantic sweep of his music. Often compared musically to Mahler, Zemlinsky weathered the build-up to two world wars from his beloved home city of Vienna, only to die prematurely in exile in the USA.

It seemed a triumph for personality over looks when Zemlinsky - mocked throughout his life for his appearance - began an affair with the famously beautiful and intelligent Alma Schindler, one of the most prominent socialites in early 20th-century Vienna. Yet Alma was to leave him heartbroken when, after a passionate affair, she chose to marry Zemlinsky's musical rival Gustav Mahler. Donald Macleod explores the tumultuous events, woven around a complete performance of Zemlinsky's symphonic poem The Little Mermaid, into which he poured his anguished feelings for Alma.

Stumm in Wehmut schaut der Mond herab (Fruhlingsbegräbnis)
NDR Symphony Orchestra
Anthony Beaumont, conductor

Die Seejungfrau
Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra
John Storgårds, conductor.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Alexander von Zemlinsky

    Fruhlingsbegrabnis

    Performer: Antony Beaumont.
    • CAPRICCIO:C10740.
    • CAPRICCIO.
    • 8.
  • Alexander von Zemlinsky

    Die Seejungfrau (The Little Mermaid) - 1st movement

    Orchestra: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: John Storgårds.
    • ONDINE : ODE-1237-5.
    • ONDINE.
    • 2.
  • Alexander von Zemlinsky

    Die Seejungfrau (The Little Mermaid) - 2nd movement;

    Orchestra: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: John Storgårds.
    • Ondine ODE1237-5.
    • Ondine.
    • 3.
  • Alexander von Zemlinsky

    Die Seejungfrau (The Little Mermaid) - 3rd movement;

    Orchestra: Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra. Conductor: John Storgårds.
    • ONDINE : ODE-1237-5.
    • ONDINE.
    • 2.

Broadcasts

Composers A to Z

Composers A to Z

Visit the extensive audio archive of Radio 3 programmes about Composers and their works.

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

A man out of time – why Parry's music and ideas were at odds with his image...

The composer of Jerusalem was very far from the conservative figure his image suggests.

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

Five reasons why we love Parry's Jerusalem

What is the strange power of Jerusalem which makes strong men weep?

Composer Help Page

Composer Help Page

Find resources and contacts for composers from within the classical music industry.