Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

FRANZ LISZT (1811-1886)
The Symphonies
A Faust Symphony (1857) 74.22
Dante Symphony (1856) 44.31
Les Préludes (1854) 16.49
Prometheus (1850) 12.28
Siegfried Jerusalem (ten) Chicago SO and chorus/Solti LPO/Solti L'Orchestra de la Suisse Romande/Jesus Lopez-Cobos
rec 1986 (Faust), 1978 (poems), 1982 (Dante)
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.

Rob Barnett

Reviews from previous months

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers : - The UK's Biggest Video Store

Concert and Show tickets


Musicians accessories

Click here to visit

Return to Index