Daniel Barenboim

Barenboim Plays & Conducts Liszt

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For the 2011 Liszt anniversary year, Warner issued this three-disc set of Daniel Barenboim conducting and playing a few of the composer's works. The two common themes running through the set are storytelling and Liszt's penchant for ostentation. Goethe's play Faust and Dante's Divine Comedy provided more than enough material for Liszt to capture musically. Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra bring out the brashness of the music. Dante is also the basis of the fantasia Après une lecture du Dante from Les Années du pèlerinage, for solo piano. The drama isn't limited to those literature-based compositions; there are plenty of theatrics in the famous Sonata in B minor, which Barenboim plays brilliantly. Filling out the set are three piano paraphrases on Verdi opera themes and the ever-popular Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 for orchestra. As rousing as it can be, it is perhaps the weakest thing here. It's a live recording, with noticeable audience noise and a somewhat sloppy orchestra. The set will not give anyone a well-rounded picture of Liszt the composer, nor does it cover all of the Liszt Barenboim has recorded, but it does cover some of the highlights for both the composer and performer.

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