Saturday, April 15, 2017

Franz Liszt - Symphonic Poems Vol. 2 (Bernard Haitink)


Composer: Franz Liszt

  1. Heroïde funèbre, S. 102
  2. Hungaria, S. 103
  3. Hamlet, S. 104 (after Shakespeare)
  1. Hunnenschlacht, S. 105 (after Kaulbach's painting)
  2. Die Ideale, S. 106 (after Schiller)
  3. Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe, S. 107
  4. 2 Episoden aus Lenau's Faust, S. 110: 2. Der Tanz in der Dorfschenke (Mephisto-Walzer)

London Philharmonic Orchestra
Bernard Haitink, conductor
Date: 1970-1971
Label: Philips



At one point back in the days of LPs it seemed that conductor Bernard Haitink was waging an Ormandy-like campaign to record all of the Western orchestral literature for Philips. Moreover, for many listeners this was a welcome pursuit because Haitink was so good at so many things; his 1973 recording of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du printemps is still considered one of the most superlative readings of the work, even though Haitink's catalog ultimately grew to the extent that it became difficult to single out what was best within it. One of his signature achievements, however, was his complete recording of the symphonic poems of Franz Liszt; Haitink was the first conductor to record all 10 of these works and likewise first to record in stereo the earliest symphonic poem in the cycle Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne (1848-1854). Initially issued as single LPs in 1972 as a five-LP box set, Haitink's cycle made its digital debut as two separate CDs as Philips' Duos; economical, but in generic packages that would hardly stand out from the crowd. Decca's four-disc box, Liszt: Complete Symphonic Poems is a huge improvement over the Philips Duos; it has an attractive design, some freshly written liner notes that are brief but serviceable, and even at full-price it costs only two-thirds of what buying both Philips Duos costs in order to get the complete set.

At the time Haitink was undertaking this cycle, the jury was still out on the relative value of Liszt's orchestral music, though Les Preludes and Mephisto Waltz No. 1 -- both included on this set -- had always remained popular favorites; just a decade before, Leonard Bernstein had gotten the ball rolling through recording the Faust symphony for CBS; it would not be long before Herbert von Karajan discovered Tasso, Lamento e Trionfo to his liking. By the 21st century, all of Liszt's symphonic poems are regarded as major romantic orchestral literature and each of the 10 has something unique to offer, even if we do not remember Mazeppa or Die Ideale as readily as we do Les Preludes. The Haitink cycle of Liszt's symphonic poems, recorded between 1968 and 1972, was considered state-of-the-art in terms of recording quality back then and still sound terrific on CD. If one is familiar with romantic orchestral literature such as Brahms, Berlioz, or Tchaikovsky, then Liszt's symphonic poems will be a revelation to you; they stand halfway between French and German traditions, and this package from Decca is certainly one of the best available in a qualitative sense, and the asking price is certainly modest.

-- Dave Lewis, AllMusic
reviewing DECCA 4782309 - Liszt: Tone Poems - London Philharmonic Orchestra, Haitink - 2010

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.


Bernard Haitink (born 4 March 1929) is a Dutch conductor. In his glowing career, he is the principal conductor of the Royal Concertgebouw (1959-1988), London Philharmonic (1967-1979), Chicago Symphony (2006-2010) and and principal guest conductor Boston Symphony (1995-2004). Haitink has conducted and recorded a wide variety of repertoire, with the complete symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Mahler, Shostakovich and Vaughan Williams, and the complete piano concertos of Beethoven and Brahms with Claudio Arrau notable among his recordings.


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