Whilst Liszt’s piano music derived from music for plays is a much smaller body of work than his catalogue of operatic pieces, the approach in his methods of composition, elaboration and transcription remains broadly the same. As far as present Liszt scholarship permits one ever to be categorical, this recording contains all of Liszt’s works in this genre.
This well recorded disc from 1987 delivers truly exciting performances of all three works in typically crisp manner by Zimerman. Ozawa and the Boston orchestra give excellent support. The emphasis here is on excitement largely created by fast speeds delivered with clarity. The more gentler parts of all three works are played with due regard to sensitivity but there is no denying that in these recordings these works are seen as primarily as virtuoso display works and that is what we are given.
Here is another recording of Liszt s Sonata displaying absolute mastery, complete insight. With Bolet one is aware of Liszt the transcendental virtuoso who discovered whole new areas of expression within the piano. -Gramophone.
Liszt’s Dante Symphony is a work of astonishing imagination. His evocation of the ‘Inferno’, the shade of Francesca da Rimini and her sad remembered love is marked by strokes of genius which, with bewildering frequency, pre-empt the mature Wagner (who was, incidentally, the dedicatee of the work). If the second and third movements – the ‘Paradiso’ was wisely commuted to a setting of part of the Magnificat plus a brief Hosanna – don’t quite match the sweep and control of the first, they have their own particular magic. Even so, the work has not acquired the popularity of the Faust Symphony. Barenboim’s new recording with the Berlin Philharmonic is thus particularly welcome. Not only does it augment the number of available recordings to four, it is also the most polished. Even performing ‘live’, the Berlin Philharmonic turns in a performance of near-perfection – the solo lines are a particular joy.
Although highly productive and respected in his lifetime as a composer of Lieder, Robert Franz (1815–92) has since become a peripheral figure in music history. One reason may be that he avoids dramatic contrasts and instead aims at an emotional ambiguity: ‘My representation of joy is always tinged with melancholy, whilst that of suffering is always accompanied by an exquisite sensation of losing oneself’, he once wrote to Liszt. As a consequence his music appeals to those who are able ‘to admire the nuances of a charcoal drawing without longing for the colours of a painting’, to quote from Georges Starobinski’s liner notes to this recording. As they began to explore the songs of Franz, Starobinski and the baritone Christian Immler were moved by their findings to devise a programme which includes 23 of the composer’s often quite brief songs. Using the poet Heinrich Heine as their guiding star, they present these – all Heine settings but from different opus groups – in the form of two ‘imagined’ song cycles.