Liszt: Dante Symphony; Dante Sonata

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Dante Symphony; Dante Sonata
PERFORMER: Daniel Barenboim (piano, conductor)Berlin Radio Choir, Berlin PO
CATALOGUE NO: 9031-77340-2 DDD
Liszt’s Dante Symphony is a work of astonishing imagination. His evocation of the ‘Inferno’, the shade of Francesca da Rimini and her sad remembered love is marked by strokes of genius which, with bewildering frequency, pre-empt the mature Wagner (who was, incidentally, the dedicatee of the work). If the second and third movements – the ‘Paradiso’ was wisely commuted to a setting of part of the Magnificat plus a brief Hosanna – don’t quite match the sweep and control of the first, they have their own particular magic. Even so, the work has not acquired the popularity of the Faust Symphony.

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Barenboim’s new recording with the Berlin Philharmonic is thus particularly welcome. Not only does it augment the number of available recordings to four, it is also the most polished. Even performing ‘live’, the Berlin Philharmonic turns in a performance of near-perfection – the solo lines are a particular joy.

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I could have wished that Barenboim showed more dramatic commitment, but he rarely lets the listener down. His solo performance of the marvellous Dante Sonata is a disappointment, with constricted piano sound and a lack of poise. Nevertheless, the symphony will be the reason for buying this CD and this can certainly be recommended. Jan Smaczny