HD-Vinyls 24/96 (DGG) Franz Liszt – Mazeppa, Hung. Rhapsodies 4+5, Hung. Fantasy for Piano & Orchestra (Karajan, Cherkassky)

front-small-boxsetHerbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonics offer a great selection of the pianist/composer’s works aside from his Concertos on this record. But for me the star of this set is not Herbie but pianist Shura Cherkassky, one of the last great “romantic” pianists. An enormously popular figure at the dawn of the LP era, Cherkassky has slipped into obscurity half a century later.

# Composer: Franz Liszt
# Performer: Shura Cherkassky
# Orchestra: Berlin Philarmonic Orchestra
# Conductor: Herbert von Karajan
# Vinyl (1964)
# Number of Discs: 1
# Format: Flac
# Label: DGG
# DR-Analysis: DR 12
# Size: 1.09 GB
# Scan: yes
# Server: FileFactory

Since probably no other composer and no other works than Liszt and his symphonic poems have received so much bashing from all and sundry, it is only fare that I – as an unabashed Lisztian – should start with their defence. That Liszt’s 13 symphonic poems are uneven as a whole is of course beyond dispute; then again, so are Beethoven’s symphonies. What’s more, this is to be expected. In the middle of the nineteenth century Liszt (together with Berlioz and Wagner) pushed the composition for orchestra to its absolute limits: of course he would produce an uneven body of works so revolutionary for their time. That said, it goes without saying that, whatever Liszt’s place in musical history as innovator, his music in general and his symphonic poems in particular must stand or fall as music. It is the intrinsic value of music which grants its universal appeal and thus its greatness. The problem with Liszt – and it is a big problem indeed – is that his overwhelming personality usually colours the perception of his works. No other composer’s music has been described more often as ”shallow”, ”bombastic” or ”vulgar”. The unpleasant truth is that the major reason for this is that most people think of Liszt as ”shallow, bombastic and vulgar” personality, womaniser, charlatan and the greatest piano virtuoso in history – and we all know that great pianists simply don’t make great composers (let’s forget about Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin and Rachmaninoff for the sake of the argument). The second major reason for the ever-fashionable Liszt-bashing is that his music is often very badly played indeed. Have I never heard these poems performed in so ”shallow, bombastic and vulgar” a manner! Often but not always. There are few exceptions and Karajan is one of them. More about him a little later.

At least six of Liszt’s 13 symphonic poems are, to my mind, worthy of frequent performance and recording: ”Les Preludes”, ”Mazeppa”, ”Tasso”, ”Orpheus”, ”Prometheus” and ”Hamlet”. What most people call ”vulgar and bombastic” in them, I prefer to call Romantic rhetoric. When this is present in the right dose and when it is coupled with certain amount of restraint and fine musicianship, these pieces sound stirring and exhilarating. These six symphonic poems definitely make a rewarding listening for there is hardly a weak moment in any of them. The rest seven, however, are certainly uneven – which is, I repeat, historically, and artistically indeed, inevitable. They all suffer, in one degree or another, from over-extension, over-repetition, and over-elaboration; and yes, sometimes the thematic material is far from distinguished. Yet none of them do I find impossible to listen to without interest, and indeed all of these poems do contain passages of great beauty and originality which make them worthy of occasional revival on the concert stage and on record. Some of these works – ”Die Ideale”, ”Hungaria” and ”Heroide Funebre” – are not so much inferior to the aforementioned sextet – at least when played with the right combination of abandon and sensitivity. As for listening to all poems in a row, this is of course pure nonsense; no one in his right mind would do that and to use it as a stick to beat the works with is, to put it mildly, unreasonable. Who can listen to Beethoven’s nine symphonies in a row without getting bored? How about Bruckner’s nine in one sitting?


A1 Mazeppa (Symphonische Dichtung Nr. 6) 15:15
A2 Ungarische Rhapsodie Nr. 5 E-moll) (Klavierfassung Nr. 5) 12:32
B1 Ungarische Rhapsodie Für Klavier Und Orchester 15:55
B2 Ungarische Rhapsodie Nr. 4 (Klavierfassung Nr. 12) Es-Dur 12:52

 Analyzed folder: /96k Liszt – Mazeppa, Hungarian Rhapsodies 4+5, Hungarian Fantasy – Cherkassky, Karajan
 DR        Peak        RMS        Filename
 DR10        -1.38 dB     -16.25 dB     A1 Mazeppa, Symphonic Poem No.6.wav
 DR14        -0.74 dB     -20.77 dB     A2 Hungarian Rhapsody No.5 In E Minor.wav
 DR14        -0.28 dB     -19.92 dB     B1 Hungarian Fantasy For Piano And Orchestra.wav
 DR10        -1.55 dB     -17.28 dB     B2 Hungarian Rhapsody No.4 In D Minor No.4.wav
 Number of files:    4
 Official DR value:    DR12


Ripping Infos


If You hear some clicks and pops here and there, Who cares?
Id rather have a few light anomalies instead of destroying the music.
Enjoy the music, not the ticks & pops.
I tend more and more, in the last time, to de-click with an automatic setting between 0.7 and 1.2 so you can say, my rips are like half rough rips.

  • Software: iZotope RX 4 Advanced, Adobe Audition CS 5.5, Twisted Wave 1.9
  • Very light de-clicking with iZotope, significant clicks manually removing, no de-noising
  • DR-Analisys before converting to Flac
  • Converting Wave -> Flac: Twisted Wave 1.9
  • Artwork: Sony Alpha 350, Epson Perfection V750 Pro, Photoshop CS 5.5

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10 thoughts on “HD-Vinyls 24/96 (DGG) Franz Liszt – Mazeppa, Hung. Rhapsodies 4+5, Hung. Fantasy for Piano & Orchestra (Karajan, Cherkassky)

  1. Thanks for these classic performances in such excellent sound.

    Karajan had a real affinity with Liszt’s orchestral works. Cherkassky’s fine contribution has already been mentioned but the playing of Karajan’s Berliner Philharmoniker is also superb. Listen to Mazeppa or 4th Hungarian Rhapsody. None of the standard orchestral noises here, instead a rich palette of sounds.

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