Apart from Franz Liszt's innovative symphonic poems, such as Les Préludes and Mazeppa, A Faust Symphony in Three Character Sketches, S. 108 was his most important orchestral work, influencing composers from Richard Wagner to Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, and at well over an hour in duration, greatly expanding the possibilities of the hybrid form. Whereas many Romantic masterpieces have been rendered with historically informed practices, period readings of the Faust Symphony are rare, so Martin Haselböck's authoritative original-instruments performance with the Vienna Academy Orchestra is a welcome addition to the all too modest catalog of recordings of the work. While the chamber size of the orchestra and rather lean sections tend to concentrate the ear on fine details, and make the Faust Symphony less imposing than more conventional symphony orchestra versions, the smaller ensemble is closer to what Liszt conducted in Weimar, where he premiered the Faust Symphony in 1857, and he would have prized the clarity of this group's sonorities and responsive dynamics. Haselböck and his orchestra recorded Liszt's other orchestral music for a series on NCA, though the Faust Symphony was not included there, so this 2017 Alpha Classics release fills the gap for collectors. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by Blair Sanderson
|A Faust Symphony in Three Character Sketches, S. 108|