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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Hungarian Rhapsody (for orchestra) No. 1 [12:08]
Hungarian Rhapsody (for orchestra) No. 2 [11:01]
Hungarian Rhapsody (for orchestra) No. 3 [9:18]
Hungarian Rhapsody (for orchestra) No. 4 [13:23]
Hungarian Rhapsody (for orchestra) No. 5 [10:32]
Hungarian Rhapsody (for orchestra) No. 6 [14:00]
Orchester Wiener Akademie/Martin Haselböck
rec. live 21 and 23 October, 2012, Franz Liszt Konzertsaal, Raiding, Austria
CPO 7777972 [70:22]

The first recording of the orchestral Hungarian Rhapsodies on historical instruments couldn't be more authentic. The recording took place in Liszt's hometown, and according to the booklet - which lists the provenance of every instrument played - many of the woodwinds “were played in orchestras conducted by Liszt.” This is most likely to be true of a trio of Viennese horns dating from 1830.
 
What counts most of all, though, is that the performances, though not especially fast, are infectiously spunky and exciting. At one point I had to stop the CD to go meet a friend in a bar, and was a little upset about it. There's one exception which proves the rule: the first five minutes or so of No. 4 are rather saggy, starting with a disappointing blurred horn fanfare. But everything else is a success. The period instruments add just that much extra rustic color, and the players themselves are energized by the live concert environment in which these recordings were made.
 
At its very best moments (like the first rhapsody) the Orchester Wiener Akademie reach the kind of hectic excitement and panache exhibited by Dorati and other such greats. Even when they're not quite on that level, they're very good, and the period sound is a big draw. Tempos are rather broad; Ivan Fischer's disc is a full 10 minutes faster. The violin soloist is Ilia Korol, whom you may know from excellent albums of Graun, Onslow and Brahms. I like the engineering for the most part; there are a few times when the timpani or trumpet are hard to hear, but the rest of the orchestra is presented very well, a little dry but not that much. Live audience sounds are only audible if you actively listen for them.
 
This is probably not a first choice, but it’s very much for period-instrument and Hungarian Rhapsody fans. Just don't let anybody interrupt.
 
Brian Reinhart 


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