A Faust Symphony (1857) 74.22
Dante Symphony (1856) 44.31
Les Préludes (1854) 16.49
(ten) Chicago SO and chorus/Solti LPO/Solti L'Orchestra de la Suisse
rec 1986 (Faust), 1978 (poems), 1982
DECCA 466 751-2
Decca Twofer [148.26]
This disc represents luxury class at bargain price and, for a change in this
price range, there is no compromise on the annotation (by Tim Parry). The
recording quality has both depth and muscle.
The two substantial fillers include Les Préludes which I learnt
from Karajan's DG recording. Solti is broad, sturdy and affirmative to the
point of bombast but this is Liszt's and not Solti's problem.
The Dante is spectacularly recorded, balletic and gives pride of place
to the harp. It is a subtle arioso blown along by fantasy and romance.
Not for the last time while hearing these two discs was I reminded of
Tchaikovsky's Manfred in the uphill 'haul' of the Purgatorio.
Invention in this work is not at the same high pitch as in Faust
although themes are luminously and swooningly addressed. Kurt Masur in
his EMI Liszt cycle tends towards a starker approach but cannot compete with
the Decca sound.
The Goethe-inspired Faust epic is champion in this company. Solti's
mercurial interpretation further emphasises the parallels with Tchaikovsky's
Manfred and with parts of Hamlet and Francesca da Rimini.
Other lesser known works felt the influence of Liszt's magnum opus. Arthur
Farwell's equally sprawling Rudolph Gott symphony and the first Scriabin
Symphony are touched with the same brush. The Chicago symphony brass are
simply superb, rasping and argumentative in the rather over-repeated fanfare
(10.46) in the Faust movement (itself running not far short of half
an hour) but dignified also (23.16). The recording is in the best Decca tradition
evidenced also in the singing delicacy of the Gretchen movement. The
choral peroration has Siegfried Jerusalem and the choir well and truly in
Rosenkavalier mood and the echo of the first movement's fanfare unites
in grandeur this splendid work. It is to Decca's and Solti's credit that
I view this work now in a much more serious and favourable light.