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Sunday 30 September 2012

Jurowski and the LPO play Zemlinsky and Strauss at the Royal Festival Hall


A pleasurable concert, partially ruined by the appalling acoustics of the Royal Festival Hall. I was sitting in good seats near the back of the front stalls which are meant to be acoustically the best, but I do wonder whether just being closer might not be a bit better. The Zemlinsky was a little disappointing, and I don't think his operas are as good as the Lyric symphony or some of his instrumental works, but also think that some of his other operas are stronger. I realise that some of my descriptions of the music might equally apply to Schreker ("sickly aura of the piece by consistently subverting and undermining the tonality, sweeping forward in endless gushes of lurid orchestral splurge") but Schreker feels much more like his own man, and just goes so much further towards extremity, kitsch, schmaltz, abandonment, excess, queasy beauty; he's the braver composer, less beholden, and the greater for it. More on him hopefully soon.

I reviewed it for Bach track:

Here's a taster:

Zemlinsky’s A Florentine Tragedy comprised the second half of the concert. Composed in 1917, this deeply autobiographical one act opera is the work of a man drunk on Strauss’ Salome of a decade earlier, but it feels like a second brew of its obvious model and suffers in every way in comparison to its predecessors (Der Rosenkavalier is freely borrowed from as well, first in the prelude, and then whenever sweetness or lighter strains are called for). This is not just a case of unfairly comparing two different works and complaining that one is not the other one – the parallels are so flagrant and numerous that comparison is unavoidable and surely even perhaps intentional.

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