Liszt: Harolde en Italie; Romance oubliée

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LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Harolde en Italie; Romance oubliée
PERFORMER: Leslie Howard (piano), Paul Coletti (viola)
The 23rd volume of Leslie Howard’s Herculean Liszt series for Hyperion is something of a highlight in an already stunning achievement. Liszt had made his brilliant transcription of the Symphonie fantastique in 1834 (Volume 10 of the Hyperion series) in order to make his friend’s music more widely accessible, and this version of Berlioz’s symphony with solo viola, Harold in Italy, is a further example of the generosity of Liszt’s musical sympathies. One is astonished by the demands made on the pianist (well met by Howard) in reproducing an orchestral texture – the sensitive accompaniment, the delicate tremolo for the strings, as well as the crystalline phrasing required for the melodic line. Equally impressive is the way Liszt enables the listener to hear a work with fresh ears: in this case, the viola part (warmly taken by Paul Coletti) is freed from the orchestration that can so easily overwhelm it. One is made to regret that Liszt did not turn his hand more often to the kind of intimacies of chamber music demonstrated in this wonderful piece. William Humphreys-Jones