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Zemlinsky’s last completed opera, Der Kreidekreis (1933) is a mixed blessing. Following its premiere in Zurich and a rash of performances in Germany the following year, the composer had fallen foul of the Nazis and the opera was branded ‘entartete Musik’ (degenerate music), after which it pretty much sank without trace. Is it worthy of revival? Ultimately I would think not – it’s a fascinating score, superbly orchestrated with more than a nod to the dance and jazz idioms of the day and some exotic Chinese scoring, but despite Stefan Soltész’s rhythmic conducting and the spiciness that the Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin brings to the recording it doesn’t hold interest. Perhaps this is because the story, Li Qianfu’s Circle of Chalk, has become established in Brecht’s later prose version. Also, the narrative jerks awkwardly between the spoken and sung word – with no enclosed libretto this will be hard work for anyone who is not fluent in German. So, sorry Zemlinsky, despite this good cast’s best efforts, especially the well-sung Haitang of Renate Behle, it fails to liftoff.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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Opera Now, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing