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Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Organ Arrangements
Ad nos, ad salutarem undam (arr. organ & orchestra, Marcel Dupré) [27:12]
Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (arr. orchestra, Leó Weiner) [18:18]
Orpheus (1856, organ version after 1860) [10:52]
Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H (arr. orchestra, Rainer Bischof) [13:17]
Christian Schmitt (organ)
Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserlautern/Martin Haselböck
rec. 6-8 January 2012, Philharmonie Luxembourg.
CPO 777 472-2 sacd.jpg [69:58]

If one thinks of the name Liszt and the word ‘transcription’, the first things which are likely to spring to mind are his work on the symphonies of Beethoven or the music of Wagner. This programme introduces work done on the music of Liszt by other composers, and is the tip of a rather substantial iceberg when it comes to the influential effect Liszt has had on music.
The best work here is the Marcel Dupré version for orchestra and organ of Ad nos, ad salutarem undam which opens the programme. This is confidently orchestrated, with a convincing division of material between soloist and the rest and some fine lyrical solos from the winds. There are some magical moments such as that with harp and glockenspiel 15:04 in, and the whole has an encouragingly substantial ‘concerto’ feel.
Leo Weiner was a contemporary of Dupré, and his orchestration of Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen is suitably dramatic and also highly effective in this setting. There isn’t a vast amount of passion emanating from the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserlautern so we’re not holding onto the edge of our seats, but this is a useful enough rendition.
Liszt’s Orpheus is originally for orchestra, but works well on organ. The booklet makes something of the Luxembourg Philharmonic Hall organ, which is described as ‘universal’ in its assimilation of German, French and Anglo-American characteristics. It is a fine sounding instrument though the Philharmonie acoustic is warm rather than rich in terms of resonance, and with such an amalgam of identities this is arguably a ‘neither fish nor flesh’ sound. There are also one or two minor tuning issues such as the descant 4:00 into Orpheus, but as with the rest of this CD the music is serviceable enough.
Least successful to my ears is the Rainer Bischoff orchestration of the Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H, which makes the most of the low brass and winds to create a juicy organ-like noise at times. There are however some Tom & Jerry percussion extras which jar more than somewhat, such as the hilariously cheesy woodblock around seven minutes in and a rather unnecessary vibraphone which brings a touch of Milt Jackson to the whole thing. The orchestral playing is also not universally wonderful in this technically highly demanding piece, the B-A-C-H theme heroic only in the sense of pumping up a bicycle tyre can be.
All in all this is a disc to intrigue and invite further exploration rather than one which will blow your socks off into a new dimension. The SACD sound is fine but the performances are more soggy than bracingly inspired - something which may have to do with the acoustic or balances sought between organ and orchestra.
Dominy Clements