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Notes and Editorial Reviews
François-Xavier Roth, cond; Les Siècles;
Maîtrise de Caen
MUSICALES ACTES SUD 07 (57:00) Live:
Laon, France 9/9/2011; Caen 12/4/2011
One of the truly great pleasures of reviewing—albeit a rare one—is to discover performers one did not previously know, then keep their names in
mind as future releases come your way. I was absolutely thrilled with François-Xavier Roth’s recording of the Mahler First Symphony, thus when I received this disc of the much rarer Liszt
I was delighted to see his name on the cover. I wasn’t disappointed. Roth’s performance of this complex and occasionally bombastic music retains its structure and develops it in a manner that is logical to the ear. I found it considerably better in structure than the often-praised recordings by Giuseppe Sinopoli (DG) and Daniel Barenboim (Warner Classics) and much more thrilling than the version by Kurt Masur (EMI). Moreover, Roth has that rarest of qualities, the ability to bring out the full textural clarity of any work he conducts. One almost hears the various instruments, even those of inner voices, with exceptional clarity without having any one section stand out inappropriately. Perhaps the fact that Roth founded this particular orchestra, Les Siècles, has something to do with it, but in any case the results are simply splendid. (The liner notes, sadly, fall back on the routine and formulaic line “one of the most charismatic and enterprising conductors of his generation”—can one be a charismatic performer of someone
generation?—but I think what I wrote above says much more about the extent of his abilities as a
Once past the extremely over-pompous first movement, this symphony has much to recommend it. The second movement in particular has a wonderful, hushed sense of mystery about it, while the fifth movement (the opening section of “Purgatorio”) is propelled by the subtle yet insistent forward push of the motor rhythms in the opening
Andante con moto
. It’s a remarkable version that compels one to listen and manages to minimize the moments of bombast and pretension. The chorus in the finale of the symphony is appropriately ethereal, and I particularly liked the use of a boy soprano soloist.
Roth’s performance of
doesn’t quite reach the Olympian heights of Toscanini’s version with the NBC Symphony, but then again, few do, and he is still able to make this somewhat sup-par tone poem sound momentous, which is an accomplishment in itself. Recommended to Lisztians in particular.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
Orpheus, S 98 by Franz Liszt
Written: 1853-1854; Weimar, Germany
Dante Symphony, S 109 by Franz Liszt
Maîtrise de Caen Choir,
Written: 1855-1856; Weimar, Germany
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
The Dante Symphony at its best January 6, 2013
By PATRICK T RUCKER (WASHINGTON, DC) See All My Reviews
"Despite the increasing number of pianists choosing to record Liszt on historical pianos, recordings of the orchestral music on original instruments remain a relatively rarity. Jos van Immerseel and Anima Aeterna were the first in their 2006 disc for Zig Zag Territories, which included three Symphonic Poems, two of the orchestral Rhapsodies, and Totentanz. The series of thirteen Symphonic Poems, along with the Evocation a la Chapelle Sixtine and the Dante Symphony, recorded during 2010 and 2011 by Martin Haselboeck and the Orchester Wiener Akademie on New Classical Adventure, are largely disappointing. The first period-instrument recording of the E-Flat Concerto, as well as works of Berlioz and Reber, appeared in 2012, with Le Cercle de lHarmonie under Jeremie Rhorer and soloist Bertrand Chamayou playing an 1837 Erard. This superb live-performance recording was made at the Arsenal in Metz in October 2011 and released on Naive. The latest live-performance disc of Liszt on original instruments from France, by Les Siecles under Francois-Xavier Roth (on Musicales Actes Sud, distributed by Harmonia Mundi) is also extremely compelling. Orpheus was recorded in December 2011 at the Theatre de Caen, in a sympathetic performance that casts a new light on the strength and nobility of this subtle masterpiece. The Dante Symphony, recorded the previous September at the Cathedral de Laon, is everything that the Haselboeck/Wiener Akademie recording wasnt: grippingly dramatic, shapely in both detail and grand design, exquisitely paced, and brilliantly colorful. The various solos in the Inferno movement are expertly rendered, while the delicately wrought Paolo and Francesca central episode is luminous. Throughout the Purgatorio, but particularly in the extended fugue, the sense of ardent yearning is almost palpable. When at last the ascent to the celestial regions begins, we are caught almost unawares by the first words of the Magnificat, here subtly sung with the utmost purity by the Maitrise de Caen. This performance is proof positive that Liszts scores, no less than those of Berlioz and Wagner, reveal heretofore unsuspected riches of color and shape when played on original instruments. In strictly musical terms, as an imaginative and persuasive realization of the elusive beauties of the Dante Symphony, this recording of Francois-Xavier Roth and Les Siecles ranks among the two or three finest to date."