The late Peter Maag’s
discography does not seem to include
any Liszt, so it is interesting that
Arts Archive have chosen to issue this
all-Liszt CD, based on concerts he gave
in the 1970s. The notes do not say,
but I presume that these were originally
radio broadcasts, though all were played
before an audience.
The recordings date
from 1976 and 1978 and have been re-mastered
to Arts Archive’s usual high standards.
Though there is still a little bit of
tape hiss, the main problem is a certain
glassiness which afflicts the piano
in its upper registers; this carries
over to the high woodwinds at times.
This is a shame, because
Lazar Berman’s account of the solo part
in Liszt’s Piano Concert No. 1 in E
flat will be one of the reasons why
people will wish to acquire this record.
Berman made studio recordings of both
Liszt piano concertos with Giulini and
the Vienna Symphony Orchestra. But Berman’s
huge talent was such that he always
had something new to say when caught
live. Not the most subtle or refined
of pianists, he still manages to turn
in some passages of surprising delicacy
despite the aforementioned problems
with piano sound. But subtlety is not
necessarily required in this work and
though Berman is on form in the wonderful
bravura passages, as a complete performance
I did not think that this quite took
Perhaps the fault lies
in the rather classically-inclined Maag.
He is a fine orchestral technician and
gets some lovely playing from the RAI
Symphony Orchestra, though there are
odd moments of imprecision. But I missed
a certain quixotic passion, the Hungarian
element in Liszt’s musical make-up.
The accompanying items
are taken from another live concert.
Liszt’s ‘Mephisto Waltz’ is performed
on its own which is a shame. Together
with ‘Night Ride’ the pieces make up
‘Two Pieces from Lenau’s Faust’ and
it would have been good to have heard
both of them, though Maag chose not
to do so. The ‘Mephisto Waltz’ is good,
as far is it goes; but I don’t think
it goes far enough. Perhaps if the RAI
Symphony Orchestra dazzled technically
things would be OK, but they don’t really
dazzle so you notice that the performance
lacks the necessary manic element, the
sense of dancing on the edge of the
Still, the last piece
on the disc more than compensates for
this. At nearly 25 minutes it is the
longest piece on the disc, and the rarest.
The Héroïde Funèbre
is the most problematic and least known
of Liszt’s symphonic poems. The work
has its origins in the July 1830 uprising,
when Liszt was going to call it the
Revolutionary Symphony. It was actually
completed at the time of the 1848 rebellion
and dedicated to all the martyrs of
the independence movement. Liszt did
not openly side with the revolutionaries,
unlike his future son-in-law Wagner,
however he did sympathise with them.
The result is a funeral march of Mahlerian
dimensions. It is all rather static
with Liszt using his considerable orchestration
skills to provide variety. To get this
piece on disc you otherwise have to
go to one of the recordings of Liszt’s
complete symphonic poems.
The combination of
Berman caught live and the rare symphonic
poem means that, whatever its limitations,
this is a recording of great interest
to lover’s of Liszt’s music.