Saturday, April 15, 2017

Franz Liszt - Faust Symphony (Thomas Beecham)


Composer: Franz Liszt
  1. Eine Faust-Symphonie in drei Charakterbildern, S. 108: I. Faust
  2. Eine Faust-Symphonie in drei Charakterbildern, S. 108: II. Gretchen
  3. Eine Faust-Symphonie in drei Charakterbildern, S. 108: III. Mephistopheles & Chorus mysticus

Alexander Young, tenor
Beecham Choral Society
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Thomas Beecham, conductor

Date: 1958
Label: EMI



It is good to see the return of one of Beecham's very finest interpretations, and on CD in a transfer that does remarkably well for a 35-year-old recording. The Faust Symphony was, not surprisingly perhaps very close to Sir Thomas's heart with his bewitching mixture of tenderness and diablerie. So Mephistopheles fizzes along famously, with a crack in the rhythm that was one of Sir Thomas's special secrets; and the elegance of Gretchen never lapses into the sentimental (I cannot resist mention of a lovely oboe solo from Terence MacDonagh). The very start, the long held note before the famous augmented triad sequence of 12 notes, seems to catch the players a bit unawares, but thereafter all is well. The first subject is hard driven, but in an authentically Faustian way, with a wonderful turn to the more reflective side of Faust's nature, and a brave display for the aspiring trumpet theme. A great performance, indeed.

-- John Warrack, Gramophone

More reviews:


Franz Liszt (October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a prolific 19th-century Hungarian composer, virtuoso pianist, conductor, music teacher, arranger, organist, philanthropist, author, nationalist and a Franciscan tertiary. Liszt gained renown in Europe for his virtuosic skill as a pianist and in the 1840s he was considered to be the greatest pianist of all time. As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent composers of the "New German School". Some of his most notable musical contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformation as part of his experiments in musical form, and making radical departures in harmony.


Thomas Beecham (29 April 1879 – 8 March 1961) was an English conductor and impresario, and a major influence on the musical life of Britain in 20th century. In 1932, together with Malcolm Sargent, Beecham founded the London Philharmonic, and he conducted its first performance at the Queen's Hall in 1932. In 1946, he founded the Royal Philharmonic and conducted it until his death in 1961. Beecham preferred making records to giving concerts. His EMI recordings have been continually reissued on LP and CD.


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