London Symphony Orchestra

Liszt: Dante Symphony; Tasso

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There are eight questions you have to ask yourself about this 2003 recording of Liszt's Dante Symphony by Leon Botstein and the London Symphony Orchestra on Telarc: is Dante really as bad a poet as this? No, of course not; as Italian poets go, he was in the same league as Virgil. Is Dante's story of Paolo and Francesca really this sensual, sentimental, and self-dramatizing? No, not at all; it's short, direct, and dreadful in its understatement. Is Liszt really this bad a composer? No, not always; sometimes he's really great and sometimes he's much, much worse. Is Liszt's Dante Symphony really this bad a piece of music? Yes, absolutely; it's trite, tawdry, banal, bathetic, bombastic, and in terribly bad taste. Imagine writing a symphony called The Old Testament and having it focus exclusively on the sex life of David and Bathsheba. Is Leon Botstein's conducting of the Dante Symphony any good? It's as good as it could be considering how aimless, formless, and meaningless the music is. Is the London Symphony Orchestra's playing any good? It's dim, dark, and dismal, but then, that suits the music. Is Telarc's recording any good? It's loud and brutal, but then that suits the music. Is their recording of Tasso, Lamento e Trionfo any good? It's no worse than the Dante Symphony, but it's no better, either.

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