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Liszt: A Faust Symphony / Bernstein, New York Philharmonic


Release Date: 09/20/2011 
Label:  Sony   Catalog #: 7857572   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Liszt
Performer:  Charles Bressler
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Choral Arts Society of PhiladelphiaNew York Philharmonic
Number of Discs: 1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Leonard Bernstein’s Boston recording of Liszt’s Faust Symphony has for so long been regarded as the reference recording of the work that we’re apt to forget that there’s an earlier version that he made with the New York Philharmonic for Sony back in the 196os. He clearly loved the piece, and offhand I can’t think of another conductor of similar stature who actually recorded it twice. Bernstein even devoted an entire televised “Young People’s Concert” to discussing it, much more for the benefit of the adults in the audience I should think.

In the telecast, Bernstein spoke somewhat disparagingly of the revised ending with chorus, which he nonetheless recorded both times. Liszt’s admittedly perfunctory original instrumental
Read more conclusion is almost never played nowadays, and for those who are curious you can hear it below in Argenta’s Decca recording with the Paris Conservatory Orchestra. In this Sony performance, Charles Bressler sings the tenor solo very sincerely and sweetly, and Bernstein plays the music with typical conviction, never mind any misgivings he might have had. It seems the only possible conclusion to such an imposing piece.

In short, this earlier recording is every bit as fine as Bernstein’s later, Boston version, and it has the not inconsiderable advantage of being about two minutes quicker in every movement. There’s very little difference between the two performances in the fast music, as a comparison of the first movement’s initial allegro reveals. Rather, the difference stems from Bernstein’s greater willingness to indulge the slower and gloomier music in the Faust movement, Gretchen’s innocent allure, and the broader tempo for the closing chorus at the end of Mephistopheles. Sonically there is very little to choose between the two recordings: they are both very good.

Frankly, I am amazed that Sony decided to reissue this recording at all since the work has never been that popular, but I am very glad that they did. Get it while you can. It is, after all, Liszt’s greatest orchestral work, and the more you come to know the music the better it sounds. Bernstein was right to lavish on it so much time and attention.

-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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Works on This Recording

1.
Faust Symphony, S 108 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Charles Bressler (Tenor)
Conductor:  Leonard Bernstein
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Choral Arts Society of Philadelphia,  New York Philharmonic
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1854-1857; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/07/1960 
Venue:  Manhattan Center, New York City 
Length: 72 Minutes 9 Secs. 
Language: German 

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