Label: BIS SACD 1530
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Totentanz, Paraphrase on ‘Dires irae’ for Piano & Orchestra, S. 126; Concerto No. 1 in E flat major for Piano & Orchestra, S. 124; Concerto No. 2 in A major for Piano & Orchestra, S. 125
Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra (OSESP)/John Neschling
A mercurial performer, conductor and composer, Franz Liszt epitomizes the Romantic genius, and his chosen instrument, the piano, was the emblematic instrument of the Romantic era. This disc brings together the composer’s three mature works for piano and orchestra. All three originate in Liszt's period as a touring virtuoso, when his visits to various cities all over Europe would cause as much publicity, not to say hysteria, as the great arena concerts of any modern-day rock or pop star: It was with good reason that the poet Heinrich Heine coined the word 'Lisztomania'! But these works were brought to conclusion during a later period, more or less corresponding to Liszt's appointment as Kapellmeister of the Court Theatre in Weimar (1848-1861). In his new role, Liszt was focusing on the orchestra, conducting the works of others as well as composing himself, especially in a new genre: the symphonic poem, of which he was one of first great advocates. The works on this disc are therefore far from what one might expect, or fear, in terms of the solo instrument being favored over the orchestra. In a great moment, the theme of the Dies irae, which runs through the Totentanz, is first presented in the deep brass of the orchestra and the first concerto was actually originally conceived as a Grande Fantaisie symphonique, a title which gives some idea of Liszt’s aim: a work in which piano and orchestra play equally important roles. On the present recording it is the all-Brazilian team of eminent pianist Arnaldo Cohen and the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra conducted by John Neschling who join forces in order to realize this partnership. Arnaldo Cohen is a highly respected Liszt interpreter, as he has shown on a previous BIS release (BIS 1253), which earned him an Editor's Choice in Gramophone as well as glowing reviews, such as the following in the Chicago Tribune: 'These performances pack a tremendous visceral punch ... among the most musically intelligent recordings of these celebrated pieces to grace the catalogue.' The São Paulo SO and Neschling have recently been earning international recognition both after highly successful tours and a number of BIS recordings that among other things have been described as ‘the most vibrant, colorful, rhythmically vital and virtuosic performances imaginable’ (Classics Today.com).