Liszt: Symphonic Poems / Michael Halász, New Zealand So

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This third volume of Naxos' ongoing series of Liszt tone poems under Michael Halász is easily the best so far. These pieces have such a bad reputation today that I suspect listeners may be surprised to discover that they contain quite a bit of really attractive music. Festklänge begins with one of Liszt's most arresting ideas, remarkably modern in character with harmony that doesn't have to be chromatic to sound interesting. Halász and the New Zealand Symphony deliver a sparkling performance, impulsive and rhythmically taut, and the work sounds much shorter than its 18-minute length might suggest. That is no mean achievement in music that admittedly has structural issues and tends to drag in less enthusiastic hands.

Ce qu'on entend sur la montagne also goes very well. The natural sonics capture the atmospheric opening (with its then-novel bass drum rolls) very effectively. If you know your Sibelius, you will recognize these first few minutes as the conceptual forebear of the Finnish composer's En Saga. Yes, the work's various sections tend to lie side by side rather than flow inevitably into one another, but it's a lovely piece that doesn't deserve its current neglect in the concert hall. Hunnenschlacht is just plain fun: a noisy battle followed by an organ-led apotheosis. Once again Halász and company deliver the goods, with fine playing and a vivid sense of drama. Also, to their credit, they don't linger over the less-interesting music representing the "good guys". In short, these are intelligent and effective performances that deliver maximum bang for your buck. Give them a shot.
--David Hurwitz,

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: 8557846

  • UPC: 747313284627

  • Label: Naxos

  • Composer: Franz Liszt

  • Conductor: Michael Halász

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: New Zealand Symphony Orchestra