A great bargain, but Haitink provides mostly tepid readings
Santa Fe Listener | Santa Fe, NM USA | 04/12/2010
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Liszt's tone poems receive credit for being a new invention, one that caught on with a vengeance, but they haven't survived in the concert hall. Full of bombast, rickety harmony, humdrum melodies, and a general sense of hackwork, their disappearance matters little. On a single CD you can have the lone survivors -- outside Liszt's homeland of Hungary, that is -- which would be Les Preludes, Mazeppa, and the Mephisto Waltz no. 1, tossing in Tasso as a filler. that leaves three Cds of music that only a masochist would want to endure except in small doses. Luckily, this bargain box set costs no more than a single CD on the used market, so you can consider the rest to be free.
It would be even more fortunate if Bernard Haitink had the temperament of a Stokowski so that he could relish the vulgarity of tis music and make audiences sit up. That is far form the case. Haitink joins his rival Kurt Masur, whose complete set of tone poems is on EMI, as being respectful and dull. Lisxt's music became the staple of early Hollywood B-movie scores; he should be played in that spirit. The Londn Phil. gives no more than a run-through of each work, even the more familiar ones. For more thrills and virtuosity, go to Herbert von Karajan's bargain two-fer on DG. It won't cost any more than this set, and doing without the extra eight works is no great loss. (I hope that I am never subjected to a lie-detector test on which the first question is, "Did you really listen to all four CDs the whole way through?")"
Liszt: try it, you'll like it!
Paul Chihara | 04/26/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Liszt tone poems are among the most important creations in orchestral history, and still today among the most enjoyable to listen to. Yes, I did listen to them all, and have enjoyed their melodies, wonderful harmonies, orchestrations (some by accomplished other composers such as Joachim Raff), and at times sheer creative (and nutty) invention! Wagner and Debussy, among many others, admired them and often stole from them. Only a caveman would dismiss them."