Hartmut Haenchen / Eliahu Inbal

Liszt: Faust Symphony; Dante Symphony

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Although now Liszt's name is more likely to produce thoughts about his many virtuosic piano works, his importance and success as a symphonist and dramatist should not be overlooked. This two-disc set on the Brilliant Classics label has two works that Liszt labeled as symphonies, but they clearly have their roots in literary drama and Liszt's own spirituality. Disc one features Liszt's Faust Symphony. Though many composers before and since have attempted to set Goethe's work to music, the immense size of the work precludes a literal setting. Liszt, however, composed his symphony not as a literal retelling of Faust, but more as a representation of Liszt's own reaction to Faust. The result is perpetually ominous and intense. Performed here by the Radio-Symphony-Orchestra Berlin (which used to be the RIAS Symphony Orchestra and is now the Deutsches Symphony Orchestra Berlin), it does a splendid job of capturing the many dark moods this work has to offer. Disc two features Liszt's other symphony focused on the literary, darker aspects of the afterlife, his Dante Symphony. In this work, Liszt creates one massive movement for each of the three books of Dante's trilogy; here again we have more of a interpretive representation of the work rather than a literal setting. Performing this symphony is the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus under Hartmut Haenchen. Listeners who don't mind trying out recordings by somewhat lesser known orchestras will be delighted with this powerful, accurate, and emotive performance.

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