8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Patrick A Daley
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Audio CD
Liszt originally wrote 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies for virtuoso piano. He heard various tunes in music played by gypsies, and assumed they were folk music. However, later research by Bartok and Kodaly established that most of them were from popular Hungarian composers, and picked up by the gypsies. Liszt enlisted the help of Franz Doppler, a flautist, composer, and conductor, to orchestrate 6 of them. He said that the orchestrations were by Doppler, with revisions by himself.
The performances by Arthur Fagen and the Staatskapelle Weimar for Naxos are excellent and the sound quality is first class. It's a beautiful CD and I recommend it highly.
I have long had the classic recordings with Antal Dorati with the London Symphony Orchestra on LP, Mercury Golden Classics SRI 75018 and 75089 (originally issued on SR 90235 and 90371), coupled with Enesco's Roumanian Rhapsodies Nos. 1 and 2. I thought I would compare the two recordings. The sound quality older Mercury recordings is pretty good. With my LPs, the strings are somewhat thin and the cimbalom (Hungarian dulcimer) is rather forward and sounds rather tizzy (this is consistent with the remarks in the Penguin Guide for the CD reissue, which I haven't heard). However, a slight adjustment of the Tilt control on my Quad preamp (+1 in the bass, -1 in the treble) tames the treble, improves the depth of image, and makes the cimbalom sound more natural.
However, the sound quality of newer Naxos recording is excellent, smooth, warm, and spacious, with a consistent wide image spread between the speakers, nice depth, and good dynamics. The Naxos recording still wins hands down for realism and dynamics.
Dorati's use of the cimbalom calls for some comment. It is evidently much closer miked than the orchestra, making it larger than life. But this adds atmosphere in some passages, notably in the 1st Rhapsody, where Fagen uses a harp. However, with Dorati, the cimbalom breaks the mood in the rather elegiac 5th Rhapsody, and here Fagen has better taste.
The performances of Dorati with the London Symphony Orchestra and Fagen with the Staatskapelle Weimar are rather different. Dorati tends to bring the character of each separate section of each rhapsody, which are generally rather episodic, whereas Fagen tends to find more continuity in the music while still bringing out the color and drama. Dorati's approach works very well in the famous 2nd Rhapsody. However, Fagen treats the 3rd Rhapsody as a continuous, unified piece, and is a clear winner to my mind.
Overall, the performances by both Fagen and Dorati are excellent, and which ones are to be preferred is, well, a matter of preference. I enjoy them about equally.
To sum up: For sound quality, Fagen on Naxos is better, for the performances, it's a toss up.