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The Sound Of Weimar Vol 1 - Liszt: Dante Symphony / Haselbock

Lisz / Haselbock / Ova
Release Date: 03/29/2011 
Label:  Nca   Catalog #: 60234   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Liszt
Performer:  Ilja Karol
Conductor:  Martin Haselböck
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Academy OrchestraChorus Sine Nomine
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 0 Hours 59 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LISZT Dante Symphony 1. Évocation à la Chapelle Sixtine Martin Haselböck, cond; Vienna Acad O; 1 Women of Ch Sine Nomine NCA 60234 (59:25)

This release is advertised as the first in a series of recordings presenting the orchestral works of Liszt on period instruments, using a smallish orchestra (33 strings) just slightly larger than the one Liszt found when he started Read more conducting in Weimar. The results are impressive. With a pumped-up modern-day ensemble, the “Inferno” movement of the Dante Symphony can easily degenerate into bombast. Here, in contrast, the terrors are created less by sheer volume of sound than by the clash of the unruly colors of the instruments—the reedy bass clarinet, the sinister bassoons, the often steely low-vibrato strings (try the cutting octave interjections in the fugue, starting seven measures after E in the second movement), the hollow stopped horns. There’s plenty of grit and vehemence in the climaxes (in part because of Martin Haselböck’s careful gauging of dynamics), but overall, the effects are less brutal (although no less sulfurous) than usual. The balances, not surprisingly, are illuminating as well.

Interpretively, the performance follows the trajectory of so many others: a blazing “Inferno” is followed by a second movement of distinctly lesser engagement. There’s a nice shape to the yearning figures in the beginning of the “Purgatorio,” but many of the accompaniments seem marginally mechanical, and the music sometimes nearly stalls. The Magnificat, in particular, sounds slightly perfunctory; surely here, if anywhere in Liszt, a bit of saccharine sentiment is called for. As a total experience, then, it doesn’t quite knock out the first-place contender, Barenboim. Still, lovers of the work—or of Liszt more generally—owe it to themselves to hear it.

The disc is even more welcome for the inclusion of Evocation à la Chapelle Sixtine , Liszt’s reconsideration of his meditation on Allegri and Mozart. As a work for organ, it’s well known; the piano variant shows up now and then, too. In orchestral guise, however, it’s almost never encountered; in fact, other than the pioneering account by Hartmut Haenchen (also coupled with the Dante Symphony, Fanfare 22:2), this is the only recording I’ve come across. Haselböck—who has recorded the organ version at least twice (and has edited it, with the other organ works, for Universal)—knows the music well, and he turns out a remarkably dramatic reading. The Allegri passages (more a “fantasy on” than a “transcription of” the famous Miserere) seethe with the same sense of despair that we get in the Inferno—and the contrast with the dry account of the Mozart Ave Verum Corpus makes the work sound that much more powerful. Excellent sound (although I wish NCA had released it as an SACD) and lengthy notes only add to the allure. Strongly recommended.

FANFARE: Peter J. Rabinowitz
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Works on This Recording

Dante Symphony, S 109 by Franz Liszt
Conductor:  Martin Haselböck
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Academy Orchestra,  Chorus Sine Nomine
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1855-1856; Weimar, Germany 
Venue:  Liszt Hall, Raiding, Austria 
Length: 43 Minutes 32 Secs. 
Evocation à la Chapelle Sixtine, S 658 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Ilja Karol (Violin)
Conductor:  Martin Haselböck
Period: Romantic 
Written: circa 1862; Rome, Italy 
Venue:  Liszt Hall, Raiding, Austria 
Length: 15 Minutes 8 Secs. 

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