Symphonic Poems II (Praga Digitals SACD PRD 250)
This second volume of the symphonic poems of Franz Liszt collects performances by various performers, conductors and orchestras originally recorded between 1958 and 1989 and remasters them to SACD. The USSR Ministry of Culture Symphony Orchestra under Mark Ermler performs Liszt’s 1854 Hungaria with bravado and passion. Even more thrilling is Beecham’s rendering of Orpheus (with the Royal Philharmonic), reckoned as the fourth ‘tone poem’ out of twelve that Liszt wrote while in Weimar. Beecham completely understands the more contemplative nature of this work. No. 5 is unleashed in a revision from 1855, previously incarnated from a production of Johann Gottfried Herder’s Prometheus Unbound. Prometheus, the overture-now-titled symphonic poem is one of the composer’s most beloved pieces. This hothouse reading by Stanislav Macura and the Prague Radio Symphony is close to those of my favourites, Haitink and Solti, and here easily sounds better than both.