Liszt?

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faustian moment

I do hope readers who don’t know Busoni’s Doktor Faust will follow up on this extraordinarily inventive and beautiful work. They may like to know that available recordings represent massively different versions of the opera. Very briefly, Busoni died without completing it, and his pupil Philipp Jarnach provided a conclusion for the 1925 German premiere, in a bleak and tragic E flat minor. In the 1980s, the Busoni scholar Antony Beaumont, working from other material, supplied music for a more serene and reflective ending; Faust finally asserts a wisdom ‘in [which] God and the Devil alike are extinguished’ (the words, written by Busoni, were not set by Jarnach) and Easter bells from earlier in the opera underlie the secular resurrection of a purely human will. (The differences are very fully described in Beaumont’s Busoni the Composer, which I strongly recommend.) I’m sure some UK posters will share my memory of the ENO performances of Beaumont’s edition in 1986 and 1990, with Thomas Allen and later Alan Opie as Faust and Graham Clark as Mephistopheles, and I was lucky enough to catch the same production in Berlin in 1987 (Günter Reich, Kenneth Riegel).

I note all this simply because if you want to get to know the piece from recordings it’s not easy. Boult’s only gives about an hour and a quarter of music, less than half the piece. Fischer-Dieskau is indeed magnificent in Leitner’s recording on DG, as is William Cochran’s terrifying Mephistopheles (a high-lying tenor role); Leitner uses Jarnach’s ending and – more disturbingly – the opera is also extensively cut. A so-so Bavarian recording on Oehms leaves off more or less where Busoni did, and a DVD version with Thomas Hampson is also not ideal – Hampson seems to me to be looking at the conductor, Philippe Jordan, all the time, and a brief but crucial cut turns the last scene into an uninterrupted monologue for Faust himself (which it isn’t), thereby adding to the feeling that this is pretty much a ‘star vehicle.’ The DVD again uses Jarnach, and I admit that over the years I’ve come to find his conclusion cruder, Beaumont’s more substantial and more of a piece with the rest of the work.

The recording which tells you the most is Kent Nagano’s (once Erato, now lousily presented on Warner Classics), which gives all the music, along with both Jarnach and Beaumont: Dietrich Henschel is Faust, Kim Begley Mephistopheles. Again, I hope those who don’t know it will bother. There’s neoclassicism in Busoni here, yes, but also much late-romanticism, in a rich and strange synthesis, and endless, elaborate allusion back to B.’s entire output, pianistic and other (as a composer his whole work bristles with weird, quasi-occult cross-reference, which only matters in that it’s very generative musically). Just felt like sharing a passion here for this haunting, remarkable work, and indeed its composer.

 

 

Thanks, DST. I've been

Thanks, DST. I've been thinking about Busoni's Faust for a while, but never really knew where to start. I've just looked up the Nagano: it's been reissued for under a tenner. No libretto, though.......It got a fantastic (and highly informative) review on Classics Today, if that mean's anything.

Hi Jane. The absence of a

Hi Jane. The absence of a libretto is, alas, what I meant when I said the Warner reissue was 'lousily presented' (and I empathize deeply with budgetary issues, which aren't always acknowledged hereabouts ...). Luckily I got it first time out. It's a pain, because F-D and (with Leitner) Cochran are unmissable but singing a deeply flawed text, as it were. I'd say hear them somehow, but get Nagano and the perfectly respectable Henschel (an F-D pupil).

The 1.25-hour Boult recording with F-D, by the way, is on the LPO label. Immortal Performances has an issue of the same broadcast which gives more of the score, but you still get only two hours of an opera which in performance lasts around three.

Good luck, anyway!

Nagano/Erato

Thanks DST, I was able to come across the Nagano/Erato box set. I'l give it a listen through in about a week or two.

goofyfoot

Busoni's Faust and his other Operas.

Nagano's Doktor Faust is the best recorded and produced, at least in his original Erato release. It is a balanced performance, anyway. The Oehms one is more recent (2008), but iit is a "live" one and has some of the usual relevant flaws. W. Koch, as Faust, and C. Naglestadt, as Duchess of Parma, are great but the whole thing is uneven.

In any case, this work has to do with the intriguing and musically complex and significant persona of Faust. So, a recording with Fischer-Dieskau is needed (even to listen to).

Nagano has also recorded another intriguing box set, with the two other minor, but always interesting to indulge in, Operas by Busoni, namely Arlecchino (a Theatrical Capriccio) and Turandot (A Chinese Fable). It had been originally released in the defunct Virgin. Hoperfully, one day (soon), Warner may reissued it (probably in these unfortunate bargain sets). Turandot itself had been recorded, on Capriccio, with the Berlin Radio S.O. under G. Albrecht and a young Rene Pape, in one of the male roles. They are charming works, in their eccentricity, interesting use of the orchestra and their rather odd brevity.

Parla

 

parla wrote: So, a recording

parla wrote:

So, a recording with Fischer-Dieskau is needed (even to listen to).

der singende teufel wrote:

der singende teufel wrote:

 

parla wrote:
So, a recording with Fischer-Dieskau is needed (even to listen to).

 

 

 

 

Yes, I noticed this too.  And, "Warner may reissued it (probably in these unfortunate bargain sets)" but thought it politic not to remark on it. But I have now. Oh well, what else is going on here?!

You are both right to be..

You are both right to be...perplexed or worse. The way I wrote it leaves at least question marks. What I meant was that one has to listen to a Fischer-Diekau recording even via Spotify (or any other means of that kind), not necessarily by purchasing the respective set of CDs (if he/she does not need the urgency to do so).

My apologies for a hastily written Sunday morning post.

Parla

Ha! Just managed to find the

Ha! Just managed to find the Busoni Faust libretto here. Translation by Edward Dent, so it should be good..........I'll pick up the cheap CD reissue on Amazon when pay-day finally comes round again...........

Faust

Thanks for the Faust PDF Jane! Getting back to Liszt, what of the 2nd Piano Concerto? Are there recommended live recordings of this work?

goofyfoot

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