60246 - chamber-like transparency
by Blair Sanderson
Once the exclusive domain for early music, the movement for historical performance practice has expanded into covering works of the Romantic era. Martin Haselböck and the Orchester Wiener Akademie present the symphonic poems Les Préludes, Orpheus, and the Berg-Symphonie in period style, much as Franz Liszt would have conducted them in the mid-19th century. With an orchestra playing authentic instruments and numbering fewer than 40 members, approximating the size of the ensemble Liszt knew in Weimar, the sound of these performances is quite exposed, distinctive, and fresh, and perhaps a little lean to modern ears accustomed to large symphony orchestras. This music was regarded as cutting-edge in Liszt's day because of its novel sonorities, especially in the instrumental combinations, which come across strikingly in these recordings. The attentive listener will notice that the chamber-like transparency of the orchestral writing is quite different from the homogenous sectional scoring by conservative composers of the time. Thanks to his years of experience in playing Liszt's organ music, Haselböck is authoritative in his direction, and his scholarship undoubtedly reinforces the authenticity of the performances. NCA's sound is open and resonant, and the wide audio range is impressive.