Special thanks to Harriet Bernbaum whose donation made this concert a success
NOTES ON PROGRAM/PERSONAL NOTES
When Brahms was shown the manuscript of Alexander Zemlinsky’s Trio, Opus 3, he immediately recommended the youthful work to his publisher Simrock, and Verlag N. Simrock did publish it. It is fortunate that Brahms took the opportunity to peruse the young composer’s score in the last year of his life. Simrock may not have taken Zemlinsky’s score quite as seriously as had Brahms; the score and parts are fraught with mistakes. Fortunately, a new Henle edition shows a more respectful treatment.
Zemlinsky’s compositional style provides a most palpable through-line from the legacy of 19th c. Schubert and Brahms to the Viennese Classical School of Berg and Schönberg. What we hear in this work is unapologetic emotionalism that defines fin-de-siècle Vienna. It’s hard not to conjure up images of paintings of Gustav Klimt when listening or playing this work. Similarly, it is easy to hear a harmonic palette that would later be echoed in Mahler’s Rückert Lieder and Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht. Zemlinsky was quite prolific, having composed operas, ballets, orchestral works in addition to chamber music.
Zemlinsky (14 October 1871 – 15 March 1942) knew Alma Schindler before she became Alma Mahler. In fact, we can add Zemlinsky to the list of her famed paramours: Gustav Mahler, Oskar Kokoschka, Walter Gropius and Franz Werfel. Zemlinsky was also Schönberg’s counterpoint teacher (later his brother-in-law). There were many important artists of the time who supported his music; one wonders why he didn’t achieve greater international acclaim in his time.
Zemlinsky was among those who fled from the growing fascism in Europe. Zemlinsky was born in Vienna to a highly multicultural family. Zemlinsky’s paternal grandparents were staunchly Roman Catholic. Alexander’s mother was born in Sarajevo to a Sephardic Jewish father and a Bosnian Muslim mother. Alexander’s entire family converted to Judaism, the religion of his maternal grandfather, He and his family hightailed out of Vienna to Prague and then in 1938 to New York City and finally Larchmont, NY.
I realize as I write this that there is a through-line in this concert program; this had eluded me in the initial stages of planning the program. It is very clear, somewhat personal, and hopefully pertinent to the reader of these notes. As always, I apologize in advance for advanced meanderings, and will attempt ‘bring it home’ at some point: [to read full blog, click here]