Leon Botstein, London Symphony Orchestra – Liszt: Symphonie zu Dantes Divina commedia & Tasso, lamento e trionfo (2003)
SACD Rip | SACD ISO | DST64 2.0 & 5.0 > 1-bit/2.8224 MHz | 63:43 minutes | Scans NOT included | 3,08 GB
or FLAC 2.0 Stereo(converted with foobar2000 to tracks) 24bit/96 kHz | Front, Scans NOT included | 1,19 GB
Features Stereo and Multichannel Surround Sound | Telarc # SACD-60613
Telarc releases a compelling recording of Franz Liszt’s “Eine Symphonie zu Dantes Divina Commedia (Dante Symphony)” and “Tasso, lamento e trionfo” with the London Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Leon Botstein and featuring London Oratory School Schola. The symphony is a typical mixture of Lisztian rhetoric and inspiration. The secret to success is to churn through the rhetoric without apologies, and to savor the inspiration when it comes.
Botstein is too tasteful to indulge himself in the hellfire of “Inferno.” One can’t quite smell the brimstone and hear the gnashing of teeth. Botstein’s attempt to subdue the composer’s vulgarity (at least in this movement) is admirable, but one might argue that vulgarity is precisely the point – this is Hell, after all. In the “Purgatorio,” Botstein’s soft-grained approach works much better, and the entrance of the chorus is truly magical. Unlike most (or all?) of the competition, Botstein uses a boys’ choir in the “Magnificat.” I believe that Liszt specified women’s voices, yet it is hard to argue with the effect of disarming innocence that Botstein achieves here. In the closing moments of the Dante Symphony, Botstein’s reading definitely comes into its own as competition against Barenboim, Masur, Kojian, and the like.
There are eight questions you have to ask yourself about this 2003 recording of Liszt’s Dante Symphony by Leon Botstein and the London Symphony Orchestra on Telarc: is Dante really as bad a poet as this? No, of course not; as Italian poets go, he was in the same league as Virgil. Is Dante’s story of Paolo and Francesca really this sensual, sentimental, and self-dramatizing? No, not at all; it’s short, direct, and dreadful in its understatement. Is Liszt really this bad a composer? No, not always; sometimes he’s really great and sometimes he’s much, much worse. Is Liszt’s Dante Symphony really this bad a piece of music? Yes, absolutely; it’s trite, tawdry, banal, bathetic, bombastic, and in terribly bad taste. Imagine writing a symphony called The Old Testament and having it focus exclusively on the sex life of David and Bathsheba. Is Leon Botstein’s conducting of the Dante Symphony any good? It’s as good as it could be considering how aimless, formless, and meaningless the music is. Is the London Symphony Orchestra’s playing any good? It’s dim, dark, and dismal, but then, that suits the music. Is Telarc’s recording any good? It’s loud and brutal, but then that suits the music. Is their recording of Tasso, Lamento e Trionfo any good? It’s no worse than the Dante Symphony, but it’s no better, either.
01. Dante’s Symphony Symphony: I. Inferno
02. Dante’s Symphony: II. Purgatorio
03. Tasso, lamento e trionfo