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Liszt: Totentanz, Tasso, Die Trauergondel / Claudius Tanski, Stefan Blunier

Liszt / Beethoven Orch Bonn / Tanski / Blunier
Release Date: 06/14/2011 
Label:  Md&g (Dabringhaus & Grimm)   Catalog #: 9371678   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz LisztJohann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Claudius Tanski
Conductor:  Stefan Blunier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Beethoven Orchestra Bonn
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Multi 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  
SuperAudio CD:  $20.99
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.

Happy birthday, Franz Liszt! The Beethoven Orchestra Bonn under its conductor Stefan Blunier and the pianist Claudius Tanski present orchestral works and piano music by this Austro-Hungarian great, including the overture to Goethe's Torquato Tasso and the Totentanz of 1849, on the occasion of the two hundredth anniversary of his birth. A finely nuanced extra comes in the form of an orchestration of La lugubre gondola by John Adams.

R E V I E W:

A deep, ringing tone and musical insight.

I don't know what might have drawn John Adams, the composer of Nixon in China, to the second La
Read more lugubre gondola of Liszt, or impelled him to orchestrate it, but the result is the most interesting on this album. Conductor Stefan Blunier exploits the spare textures of Adams's arrangement and Liszt's edgy horizontal semitone dissonances to evoke the spirit of late Mahler - it's Liszt as an unexpected precursor of Expressionism. Transparent three-part string chords at 6:00 let in some light, but the more disturbed music returns before the piece simply evanesces.
 
Blunier's leadership in the other two big pieces here is similarly attentive and musically informed. He guides his players well through most of Tasso. The string sections of the Bonn Beethoven Orchestra are a few desks smaller than those of the high-octane ensembles, but the impression is still of a string-based sonority supported by winds, rather than the reverse. In the turbulent passages, the Bonn players' compact sonority conveys the drama without spilling over into fustian. The broad, lyrical themes are sensitively phrased by vibrant strings and full-throated winds; and the more lightly scored pages are beautifully airy. I also liked the brasses' voicing of the chorale at 8:58 - solemn and deep, incisive but not aggressive. The mild ambience, however, slightly blunts the effect of the delicate woodwinds after 11:58; and Blunier doesn't avoid self-conscious grandiloquence in the final peroration.
 
This Totentanz, conjuring Hallowe'en spooks more than a witches' cauldron, takes time to find its footing. The opening is heavy and deliberate. Claudius Tanski's first cadenza, gliding up and down the keyboard with solidly weighted, glistening tone, picks things up, but then his second one is too rhythmically square to register as the intended flourish.
 
The orchestra is game, but at less than tutti strength, it struggles to make itself heard over the piano after 2:46 and elsewhere, though the brass proclamation at 9:58 cuts through clearly. It's Tanski who provides the main interest, drawing on a virtuoso technique and a full range of dynamics and textures. The driving repeated-note motif at 7:41 is executed well, but the seemingly effortless way the fugal voices coalesce around it is even more impressive. The triplet chords at 11:06 are nicely buoyant.
 
Tanski plays the shorter pieces with deep, ringing tone and musical insight. He underlines the Expressionist aspects of the first La lugubre gondola, just as the orchestra did in the second. Recueillement is more conventional in texture, with pingy articulations from the soloist, but the harmonic idiom is equally angular and unstable. Even Sursum corda, with its patently Romantic gestures, sounds oddly "advanced". I assume the Bach Chorale is a Liszt transcription - the notes don't discuss it - and Tanski varies the density of the chording while maintaining a solid tone: nicely done.
 
The sound quality in ordinary stereo is lovely in the lighter bits, lively in tutti, and slightly rowdy in the final climax of Tasso. The piano registers handsomely throughout. Some piano-and-orchestra passages in the Totentanz sound bunched up and opaque in the midrange, but this may well represent the actual playing, rather than an engineering flaw.
 
-- Stephen Francis Vasta, MusicWeb International


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Works on This Recording

1.
Tasso - Lamento e trionfo, S 96 by Franz Liszt
Conductor:  Stefan Blunier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Beethoven Orchestra Bonn
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849/1854; Weimar, Germany 
2.
Totentanz, S 126 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Claudius Tanski (Piano)
Conductor:  Stefan Blunier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Beethoven Orchestra Bonn
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1849/1859; Weimar, Germany 
3.
La lugubre gondola for Piano, S 200 by Franz Liszt
Conductor:  Stefan Blunier
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Beethoven Orchestra Bonn
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1882; Rome, Italy 
Notes: Arrangement: John Adams 
4.
La lugubre gondola, S 134 by Franz Liszt
Period: Romantic 
Written: Venice, Italy 
5.
Recueillement for Piano, S 204 by Franz Liszt
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1880s; Rome, Italy 
6.
Années de pèlerinage no 3, S 163: no 7, Sursum corda by Franz Liszt
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867-1877; Rome, Italy 
7.
O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort, BWV 60: no 5, Es ist genug by Johann Sebastian Bach
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Leipzig, Germany 
Notes: Arrangement: Franz Liszt 

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