Now available in multi-channel surround SACD!
Telarc releases a compelling recording of Franz Liszt's "Eine Symphonie zu Dantes Divina commedia" and "Tasso, lamento e trionfo" with the London Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Leon Botstein and featuring London Oratory School Schola.
"I have been working fairly continuously on my symphonic poems, which for now and for the next few years are my life's work." Thus did Franz Liszt (1811-1886) describe his compositional activities in the mid-1850s. His dedication to orchestral writing in this period was, in fact, remarkable, as he completed no less than fourteen works in a decade. Though the new job as Director of Music at the Court in Wiemar required Liszt to cut back on his career as a highly successful virtuoso pianist, he did recognize the new position as a chance to expand his expressive potential as a composer.
"Eine Symphonie zu Dantes Divina commedi" (1855-56) is based on the poetic masterpiece of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). The two movements of the symphony, "Inferno" and "Purgatory," chart the journey of the soul toward Paradise, with some of the musical ideas taken directly from Dante's text (the opening theme, for instance, provides a literal setting of four lines inscribed on the Gates of Hell at the opening of the third Canto). The work stops short of heaven, though it does provide a glimpse of heaven with a haunting choir intoning the words of the Magnificat at the threshold to the higher sphere. Perhaps even for Liszt, there was a limit to where earthly music dared tread.
"Tasso,lamento e trionfo" was originally written as an overture to a stage production of Goethe's drama Torquato Tasso held in honor of the writer's 100th birthday celebration at Weimar in 1849. The play recalls the life and passions of Torquato Tasso (1544-1595), whose literary masterpiece about the first Crusade, La Gerusalemme Liberata, made him arguably the greatest Italian poet of the late Renaissance. Byron looms in the background to this work as well, for it is his Lament of Tasso which strongly suggests itself in the symphonic poem's subtitle and in the exploration of an artistic soul wracked by doubt which opens the work. Liszt transforms these doleful themes into radiant melodies in the second half of the piece, heralding the artist's ultimate victory beyond the grave.
Leon Botstein is music director and principal conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra, which performs at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall. His recordings for Telarc with the London Philharmonic include the music of Max Reger; Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra; music of Szymanowski; symphonies of Karl Amadeus Hartmann; Dohnanyi's D minor symphony; and Bruckner's Fifth Symphony (Shalk edition). Most recently, Telarc released a recording of Richard Strauss's rare opera, Die Agyptische Helena with Deborah Voigt, which was recorded live at Avery Fisher Hall in New York with Botstein and the American Symphony Orchestra.