Listening to the Radio3 broadcast of Jurowski/LPO doing the Zemlinsky Lyric Symphony. Jurowski is, for me, the most gifted conductor of the younger generation. Maybe the most gifted since Carlos Kleiber. I deeply respect him for doing so many pieces nobody else does, but the Lyric Symphony really is a piece that deserves to be a rarity. Jurowski does the best he can with this, trimming the fat to a minimum and bringing out lots of detail and strange harmonies. I'd imagine Esa-Pekka Salonen did something similar last year (albeit he's rhythmically much squarer than Jurowski), though I didn't hear the broadcast.
Like so many of the not-quite-first-raters of fin-de-siecle Wein, he wrote a piece with great moments followed by generic stretches. It's a piece crammed with great orchestration, some wonderful moments that sprinkle their way through an hour long ramble, and metaphysico-erotic junk posing as a profound text - Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony is absolutely the missing link between Mahler and Schoenberg. But nobody should ever equate it with Das Lied von Der Erde, a piece that can never be overrated. This is the link between Part II of Symphony of a Thousand and Gurrelieder. Bloated monsterpieces all by composers who wrote much better music.
Zemlinsky was a fine composer. But he suffered from the typical post-Wagner surfeit of ambition, and contributed his own part and then some to the musical arms-race of the period. The Lyric Symphony is at its best in the quiet moments, expressing the lingering dread, the