Notes and Editorial Reviews
Forget about the period instrument aspects of this recording. The claim that some of the musicians use instruments that were actually played in orchestras of Liszt’s time is nothing but a gimmick; it’s not the instrument that makes the performance, it’s the player. The claim that this represents “The Sound of Weimar” is pure puffery, and frankly I’m very tired of it and all such similar nonsense. So let’s get that out of the way and move on. It’s not a selling point.
What is a selling point is that this is a very attractive set of the six orchestral Hungarian Rhapsodies. Martin Haselböck remains a fine organist and musician generally, and his belief in Liszt is both honest and musically persuasive. This ongoing “Sound of
Weimar” Liszt series has appeared on several labels, and has been largely impressive, not because of the period instrument aspect, but because the Orchestra of the Vienna Academy plays well (mostly), and because the interpretations ask us to take Liszt as seriously as the conductor does. In other words, the musicianship is there. Haselböck paces this music very well. The First Rhapsody, for example, doesn’t really get going until it’s almost half over, but Haselböck finds a flowing tempo from the outset that makes those introductory gestures sound, well, rhapsodic rather than merely spasmodic. Rhapsody No. 4 manages to sound less repetitious than it usually can, while No. 5, the darkest of the set, really does have a nicely “Hungarian” tang that never turns merely glum.
There are only two small caveats: these tasteful performances could benefit from a touch more sparkle, a bit more sense of fun, because the music can take it without necessarily turning vulgar. In both Rhapsody No. 2 and No. 6 Haselböck sounds a touch careful, but if too much seriousness is a fault then it’s probably one in the right direction given what usually happens to these pieces. Second, those “original” trumpets could be played more confidently; they have a lot to do and the players could offer a touch more swagger.
That said, these remain very pleasing, listenable performances even at a single sitting. Textures are clean and clear, and the fact that the music was arranged by Franz Doppler, later corrected and approved by Liszt, seems to make the orchestration in general less screechy than Liszt’s norm. Toss in excellent engineering from the Liszt Concert Hall in his home town of Raiding, and the result is a very enjoyable experience that just might be more musically substantial than you thought possible.
-- David Hurwitz, ClassicsToday.com
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