Liszt, Wagner, Berlioz

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COMPOSERS: Berlioz,Liszt,Wagner
LABELS: Erato
WORKS: Two Episodes from Lenau’s Faust
PERFORMER: Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo-soprano), Jean-Paul Fouchécourt (tenor), Frédéric Caton (bass), Claude Zibi (guitar); Choir of Radio France, Radio France PO/Yutaka Sado
CATALOGUE NO: 8573-80234-2
This is a highly enjoyable issue of rarely heard music. Berlioz’s Eight Scenes of 1829 reappeared in La damnation de Faust, but were originally his Op. 1. In 1840 Wagner, under Berlioz’s influence as well as Beethoven’s, and before The Flying Dutchman which is in the same key, produced his first orchestral masterpiece; he revised it many years later with no incongruity of style (this is the version given here). Liszt’s ‘episodes’ (played in reverse order from my score) are the first Mephisto Waltz, superbly orchestrated, and a haunting nocturne, and are particularly enjoyable performances. The orchestral playing is excellent and Sado has the measure of the divergent styles of all three composers; the choir supports him well, and Kirchschlager is a rich-voiced Marguerite. On the cover, some chump ascribes Berlioz’s tenor solos to Faust as well as Mephistopheles. Fouchécourt could indeed use more devilry, while Caton is a humourless Brander, ignoring Berlioz’s invitation to hiccup. In La damnation, Berlioz reassigned two solo movements to chorus. The peasants’ song appears in its original version, but the sextet of sylphs is given chorally. Berlioz attributed its eventual popularity to his revision for chorus, but he recomposed it extensively; here the balance doesn’t work. Julian Rushton

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