Leslie Howard / Mattia Ometto

Liszt: Twelve Symphonic Poems

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The two-piano versions of Liszt's 12 symphonic poems are the composer's own; with an unerring eye on the market, he released these works in orchestral, two-piano, and piano four-hands versions (and later versions for a single piano made by students, but overseen by Liszt himself). Many if not most listeners in the 19th century would have encountered the works in piano versions of one kind or another, even if they wouldn't have sat down and listened to pianists plow through all 12 in one sitting. You get the complete set here, as is typical of the Netherlands' budget Brilliant label. There are other ways to program these pieces for maximum impact, but it's also true that some of them are rarely played, and the set has considerable reference value for Liszt enthusiasts. Consider and sample Hungaria on the third disc, which Liszt somewhat reworked for the piano version, and without which it's hard to imagine the nationalist tone poems of the rest of the 19th century. The album benefits from its performers, Mattia Ometto (a genuine Liszt specialist) and Leslie Howard, and from reasonable engineering at the acoustically appropriate Pollini Auditorium in Padua. Recommended, and even necessary for large Liszt collections.

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