Busoni: Faust

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Faust
PERFORMER: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Richard Lewis, Ian Wallace, Heather Harper, John Cameron; LPO & Choir; Ambrosian Singers; Chorus from the Royal Academy of Music/Adrian Boult


The audience at this Royal Festival Hall performance in November 1959 must have been grateful for the opportunity to hear Busoni’s rarely-performed operatic masterpiece – albeit in severely truncated form. One particularly regrettable cut is the first part of the scene in which Faust, consulting the book of magic that had been presented to him by three mysterious students from Kraków, conjures up the spirits of darkness. With each of their successive vocal entries the pitch rises, until finally Mephistopheles enters chillingly on a top C. In this version, however, that entry is wholly unprepared.


The performance is, however, strongly cast, with a magisterial account of the title role from Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Heather Harper is in radiant form as the Duchess of Parma, and Richard Lewis acquits himself well in the cruelly demanding part of Mephistopheles. The mono recording is serviceable. For the complete score you need to turn to Kent Nagano. Misha Donat