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Donald Macleod focuses on Zemlinsky's most painful - and brutal - musical self-portrait: his opera The Dwarf, written in Prague in aftermath of the First World War.

Donald Macleod explores Zemlinsky's most painful - and brutal - musical self-portrait: his opera "The Dwarf", written in Prague in aftermath of the First World War.

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.

As Europe descended into war in the mid 1910s, Zemlinsky found himself cast out of his beloved Vienna, to take up the reins of the German Opera in Prague. He was to forge a dazzlingly successful career there as a conductor, yet as his workload increased to almost breaking point, he composed his brilliant, unsettling opera "The Dwarf" - the tale of a Princess's charming new companion who, to his horror, suddenly becomes aware of his physical grotesqueness. It would be Zemlinsky's most brutal musical self-portrait.

Die drei Schwestern (Three songs after poems by Maeterlinck)
Anne-Sofie von Otter (mezzo)
NDR Symphony Orchestra
John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

Der Zwerg (The Dwarf) (opening)
Iride Martinez, soprano (Ghita)
Juanita Lascarro, Machiko Obata, Anne Schwanewilms, sopranos (Maids)
Natalle Karl, Martina Rüping, sopranos (Playmates)
Gürzenich-Orchester Kölner Philharmoniker
James Conlon, conductor

Der Zwerg (excerpts: Seltsam, die Launen... - Bist du es, feundliches Bild? - Weinst du? Liegst du am Boden?)
David Kuebler, tenor (Zwerg)
Gürzenich-Orchester Kölner Philharmoniker
James Conlon, conductor

String Quartet No 3 (3rd movt. Theme and Variations)
Brodsky Quartet.

1 hour

Music Played

  • Alexander von Zemlinsky

    Die drei Schwestern

    Singer: Anne Sofie von Otter. Orchestra: Netherlands R S O. Conductor: Sir John Eliot Gardiner.
    • DG RECORDS : DG 439-928 2.
    • DG RECORDS.
    • 6.
  • Alexander von Zemlinsky

    Der Zwerg Op17 - opening

    Singer: David Kuebler. Singer: Soile Isokoski. Singer: Iride Martinez. Orchestra: COLOGNE Gurzenich Orchestra. Conductor: James Conlon.
    • EMI : 566247-2.
    • EMI.
    • 9.
  • Alexander von Zemlinsky

    Der Zwerg Op 17 - excerpt

    Singer: David Kuebler. Singer: Soile Isokoski. Singer: Iride Martinez. Orchestra: COLOGNE Gurzenich Orchestra. Conductor: James Conlon.
    • EMI : 566247-2.
    • EMI.
    • 9.
  • Alexander von Zemlinsky

    Der Zwerg Op 17 - excerpt

    Singer: David Kuebler. Singer: Soile Isokoski. Singer: Iride Martinez. Orchestra: COLOGNE Gurzenich Orchestra. Conductor: James Conlon.
    • EMI : 566247-2.
    • EMI.
    • 9.
  • Alexander von Zemlinsky

    String Quartet No 3 Op 19 - Theme and Variations

    Ensemble: Brodsky String Quartet.
    • CHANDOS : CHAN-10845(2).
    • CHANDOS.
    • 2.

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