Michael Halász

Liszt: Symphonic Poems

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Of all the forms that bear Franz Liszt's stamp, the symphonic poem is perhaps his most original contribution to orchestral music, and the 13 works he designated as such were among the most influential of the mid- to late nineteenth century. Of these, Les Préludes, Mazeppa, and Hamlet are the best known today and the most often performed; but the others are worthy of attention, even though they have fallen somewhat out of fashion and are infrequently programmed. Between 1991 and 2005, Michael Halász recorded Liszt's cycle for Naxos in four volumes, the first with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra and the succeeding three discs with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. This concluding installment, released by Naxos in 2007, consists of the nationalistic march Hungaria (1854, revised 1856), the brooding Héroïde funèbre (1850, revised 1854), and the similarly dark Le Triomphe funèbre du Tasse (1866, revised 1877), three grandiose works that range in mood from the fervently patriotic to the heroic and tragic. Halász presents these pieces with appropriate dignity and bravado and takes the music seriously, even when its bombast threatens to be excessive or hokey; and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra musters a big, full-bodied sound that gives the music credible force and sonority, in keeping with its intense Romanticism. Naxos provides fine reproduction, with natural resonance and vibrant timbres, so the occasional subtleties of Liszt's orchestration are not lost in an overly homogenized mix.

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