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31.7.06

Dip Your Ears, No. 67 

available at Tower Records
A.Zemlinksy, A.Enna, Die Seejungfrau / Matchstick Girl, T.Dausgaard, Danish NSO & Chorus
available at Amazon
Conlon / Seejungfrau


available at Amazon
Beaumont / Seejungfrau - SACD


available at Amazon
Dausgaard / Seejungfrau - Chandos
Any Mermaid coming my way is highly welcome – and if I have to content myself with Alexander (von) Zemlinsky’s tone poem of that name (as I had to, so far), that’s fine, too. Die Seejungfrau, in its original German title, is 104 years old but its attraction remains undiminished. Zemlinsky is one of those sadly neglected composers of the turn of the last century that should appeal to all those who like Richard Strauss’ tone poems and Metamorphosen or early Schoenberg (think Verklärte Nacht or Pelleas & Melisande) or Mahler. (Zemlinsky was also the subject of "Dip Your Ears, No. 56".)

So far, Chandos has the Mermaid-market cornered – both Beaumont (esp. on SACD) and Dausgaard (my favorite) have come up with excellent versions that have eclipsed even James Conlon’s EMI recording in my estimation. Here comes Dausgaard’s second recording with the Danish National Symphony Orchestra – this time live and on the Dacapo label. I can’t say it improves on his earlier version or Conlon's or Beaumont's, but it is another exquisite reading and welcome to the catalog. Particularly so, because the Mermaid gets the show stolen by the accompanying Matchstick girl. August Enna, a Zemlinksy contemporary, makes the latter seem like a super-star of music. Few are likely to be familiar with his work – and if, then probably only with his little one-act opera on H.C.Andersen’s tale. Incidentally, that’s a good start – because it’s a thirty-plus minute work of immense charm. There is Sibelius and R.Strauss washed together with some distinctively Russian opera turns of phrases and a strangely Italianate atmosphere amidst the use of Danish tunes. At points during this opera, you would be excused to think “La Bohème” but with bearable music and delightfully short. Written for orchestra, choir, and two soloists (Inger Dam-Jensen and Ylva Kihlberg are the affectionate sopranos), it's a little gem to be appreciated by anyone whose musical shores it has washed on to.

Those who know well enough to be interested in Northern European romantics (Langaard, Halvorsen, Nielsen, Norgard, Rautavaara, Ruders, Sibelius, Sinding, Svendsen – to name just a few) but don’t have Den lille pige med svovlstikkerne in their collection yet, this is worth getting just for the Enna. If intrigued and inexcusably without a Seejungfrau on your shelves, it might prove the ideal patch.

Dacapo 8.226048

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