• Zemlinsky’s Affair to Remember

    The five Richard Dehmal poems of Zemlinsky's Fünf Lieder, which you can hear on Renée Fleming's January 11 recital, vividly depict an affair between a married woman and man—a scenario the composer was watching unfold within his own family as he was composing the cycle.

    Zemlinsky must have been overjoyed when his sister, Mathilde, married Arnold Schoenberg. He must have been less thrilled when she started her relationship with the painter Richard Gerstl (also a friend of Schoenberg). By the time Zemlinsky had completed his five songs, Mathilde had left Schoenberg and moved in with her lover. Shortly thereafter, she went back to Schoenberg, and the painter killed himself.