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ALLA BREVE

March 01, 1987|JOHN HENKEN

LISZT: "DANTE" SYMPHONY. Rotterdam Philharmonic and Helmond Concert Choir, conducted by James Conlon. Erato NUM 75245. Those for whom Liszt is the personification of indulgent excess might be surprised by this album. A symphony based on "The Divine Comedy" would seem to offer ample scope for bombast and maudlin sentiment, but Liszt is remarkably restrained. The "Inferno" movement does indeed unleash blasts of brassy brimstone, but minus any sense of purely rhetorical repetition, and "Purgatorio" confines itself largely to murmurous discontent. Wagner persuaded Liszt that no human could adequately compose a "Paradiso," so Liszt substituted a "Magnificat," for which he enlisted a treble choir. The Erato sound is potent, but Conlon enforces a deliberate approach that further increases the sense of control, although there are discrepancies between the choral and orchestral attacks and releases.

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