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CD Review

Franz Liszt

"Dante" Symphony

Utah Symphony & Chorale/Varujan Kojian
Citadel 88102 - 56min
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Despite the astonishing virtuosity of the Utah Symphony and the undeniable excitement that Kojian whips up from time to time, this reissue of the Dante Symphony is completely eclipsed by Teldec's recording with Daniel Barenboim and the Berlin Philharmonic. Timings alone tell much of the story:


Kojian polishes off this Symphony nearly ten minutes ahead of Barenboim without cutting a single note! In Kojian's defense, there are no metronome markings in the score, and his extreme tempos can be justified by reference to Liszt's ambiguous instructions - at least in the Purgatorio (II) which begins "Andante con moto quasi Allegretto". Yet where Kojian races, Barenboim probes beneath the surface, revealing the seething passion and mystical beauty of this unjustly neglected masterpiece. And where Kojian is episodic and superficial, Barenboim carefully shapes each phrase and then delicately fits it into Liszt's monumental structure. Although both orchestras play exceptionally well, no one will be surprised to learn that the Berliners are unbeatable in this repertory. Simply listen to the imposing brass at the beginning I or the glowing clarinets in the love music if you doubt my word. This disc does have one advantage over Barenboim's: on a separate track it includes the only recording of the optional second finale written by Liszt at the behest of his lover, Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein. This loud, brassy 55 second afterthought can be easily programmed to follow the end of the Magnificat if so desired. An overly careful and lifeless Tragic Overture completes Kojian's program.

Citadel's sound is harsh and unpleasantly brittle, as if the recording was mastered with the treble control stuck wide open. A loud, annoying hiss comes and goes at various points in the Symphony. Unless you insist on hearing the Symphony's alternate ending, Barenboim's disc is now clearly the one to have.

Copyright © 1998, Tom Godell