What did Franz Liszt's music sound like in his day? To answer this question, Martin Haselböck, the Orchester Wiener Akademie, and the women of the Chorus Sine Nomine present the Dante Symphony and the Évocation à la Chapelle Sixtine in historically informed, Romantic period style. With an orchestra playing authentic instruments and numbering fewer than 40 members, and a women's chorus approximating the size Liszt would have had available in Weimar, the sound of these performances is quite direct and at times startling in its originality. It's easy to understand why this music was regarded as cutting-edge, because it offered novel sonorities, especially in the instrumental combinations, and some special effects of orchestration that had few practitioners, other than Berlioz and Wagner. Yet Liszt's explosive depiction of Dante's "Divine Comedy" paves the way for the tone poems of Richard Strauss and the symphonies of Gustav Mahler, and the careful listener will notice that the leanness and transparency of the orchestral writing is quite different from the more homogenous scoring by the Classically oriented composers of the time. Haselböck is authoritative in his direction, undoubtedly from his years of experience in performing the organ works of Liszt, and his ensemble plays with acute clarity and drama, as befits this music. NCA's sound is spacious and vivid in its dimensions, aided by a pleasant acoustic ambience that gives the tone colors a delightful resonance.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|A Symphony to Dante's Divina Commedia|