Felix Weingartner

Liszt: Piano Concertos; Les Preludes; Beethoven: 11 Viennese Dances

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At first glance, this seems like a strange combination of elements: Emil von Sauer's famous and oft-reissued 1938 recordings of the two Liszt piano concerti, along with some Beethoven dances and Liszt's Les Preludes. The light comes on when one realizes this Opus Kura series is devoted to Felix Weingartner, not the titanic von Sauer, and are included as Weingartner was lucky enough to have von Sauer on board when he recorded these Liszt concerti. Weingartner described his personal contact with Liszt in the 1880s as the turning point in his musical life, and it is a pity he did not record more Liszt. Apart from the two numbered piano concertos with Sauer, only Les Preludes and Mephisto Waltz No. 1 exist under Weingartner's baton, both in recordings made with the London Symphony Orchestra in 1940. This disc contained all of Weingartner's Liszt recordings, yet it does not, owing to the unfathomable omission of the Mephisto Waltz; instead, Opus Kura offers a 1938 recording of the Mödlinger Tänze ascribed to Beethoven, split in half with the Liszt second concerto plunked down in the middle. Naxos rather more sensibly offered this track tagged onto the end of its reissue of Weingartner conducting the Fifth and Sixth symphonies of Beethoven. Moreover, one can have the Mephisto Waltz No. 1 and Les Preludes together in Weingartner's entry in IMG Artists' Great Conductors of the Twentieth Century series. Emil von Sauer is best understood in the context of his own recorded work, and releases on the Marston and Arbiter labels have all that is known of von Sauer's bases covered.

This Opus Kura release might be of additional value if the transfers were superb, but these are sonically congested and very quiet. There is practically no surface noise from the source 78s, but you really have to crank the thing up to get it to perform. In such cases, a little bit noise is desirable in order to hear everything going on in these recordings, and while Opus Kura' Felix Weingartner: Liszt Piano Concertos is certainly acceptable, the alternatives named above are to be preferred.

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