Sunday, May 16, 1999

Conlon enriches Zemlinsky's music

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        James Conlon is a champion of the music of Alexander Zemlinsky, having recorded two operas, Der Zwerg, (The Dwarf) and Eine florentinische Tragodie (A Florentine Tragedy), the tone poem Die Seejungfrau, and other works. In this, Mr. Conlon's sixth Zemlinsky album for EMI Classics, he explores the late-romantic Austrian composer's choral music.

        Zemlinsky's settings of Three Psalms (Nos. 13, 23 and 83) are lush and beautifully performed. The delicate opening of Psalm 23, “The Good Shepherd,” is stunning, with its soaring oboe solo and well-trained voices of the Chorus of the Municipal Society of Dusseldorf (founded in 1818). Mr. Conlon's orchestra is transparent, expressive and recorded with a realistic warmth.

        Smaller choral works, such as Geheimnis (Secret) and Minnelied (Love Song) are wonderful finds, their simple melodies orchestrated with the colors of flute, harp and French horn. Another, Hochzeitsgesang (Wedding Song), was intended for a synagogue wedding.

        Aurikelchen (Little Cowslips) that appears on the May Festival's (sold out) Cathedral Basilica concert today, is a charming miniature that is sung a cappella by women's chorus.

        Soprano Deborah Voigt and baritone Donnie Ray Albert are soloists in the Fruhlingsbegrabnis (Burial of Spring), a haunting oratorio on an arch-romantic text about elves who carry their “departed friend Spring to his grave.”

        Mr. Conlon elicits rich, luxuriant textures from his forces. Most importantly, though, he has illuminated the choral riches of this neglected composer.

- Conlon enriches Zemlinsky's music
Conlon's attack galvanizes May Festival's opening night

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