Faust

A London Summer with Huntley Dent

Prom 15: Liszt’s Faust Symphony, Kodály and Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 1

Loved to dearth. Without remembering any legal documents I signed that had Satan written in the small print, just when I forget how tawdry and thin Liszt's Faust Symphony is, it comes around again and I give it another chance. Too late. I hear the old guy cackle and the doors of Albert Hall clanging shut. The only way to overcome the symphony's clattering banality is for the conductor to bash the score within an inch of its life. The thing won't die — no fear of that — and if there is truly inspired leadership, as from Leonard Bernstein and Jascha Horenstein in their classic recordings, the music will bring genuine pleasure, like the circus.
A London Summer with Huntley Dent

Mahler: Symphony No.8 in E flat major, ‘Symphony of a Thousand’

Sacred monster. This year’s Proms season began with the Mahler Eighth, which is like having the Queen Mary tootle up the Thames for the first day of Henley. (To let us down gently, we get Die Meistersinger tomorrow night and Simon Boccanegra the night after that – no musician in London will go without a paycheck this week.) In the bad old days all of Mahler’s symphonies were accused of being freakishly outsized, but only this one, to my mind, qualifies. One longs for it to be smaller, even when the chorus is only six hundred strong, as it was last night, well short of the eight hundred or so it would take to qualify as the “Symphony of a Thousand” – to be fair, the nickname was added by an imaginative impressario. The symphony has trouble getting ashore, but worse than that, Mahler’s conception is self-defeating.
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