Martin Haselböck / Wiener Akademie Orchester

Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsodies

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Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsodies Review

by Blair Sanderson

Franz Liszt's 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies were originally composed for piano, though there are six orchestral transcriptions that correspond to Nos. 14, 2, 6, 12, 5, and 9 of the keyboard versions. They were arranged for orchestra by Franz Doppler, though Liszt participated in their scoring, and they have become enormously popular, especially the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, which has been used frequently in film and television. One problem with the orchestral versions is the loss of virtuosic sparkle and the giddy showmanship that made the piano originals so charming and effective, and while the orchestration is functional and competent, Liszt was not as brilliant in writing for the orchestra as he was for his own instrument. Even so, these performances by Liszt authority Martin Haselböck and the Wiener Akademie Orchester have considerable verve and appeal, and where these pieces lack technical flashiness, their infectious melodies carry them all the way. Hasselböck has been active in re-creating the sound of the orchestras Liszt knew in Weimar, and to the extent that this ensemble is of the size and instrumentation of the period, it achieves similar results to recordings on NCA of Liszt's symphonic poems. The sound is smaller and more intimate than that of a modern symphony orchestra, and the textures are leaner, but Hasselböck and his players are convincing in their re-creation of a 19th century Hungarian orchestra. CPO's reproduction is crisp and dry, so the instruments have a slightly raw edge.

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