The Scotsman, 14. August 2002
Martin Parker
Liszt: Faust Symphony, Edinburgh 2002
Faust Symphony
MUSIC: Usher Hall
WE HAVE the 19th century to thank for many things - great municipal engineering projects, natural selection and the classical concert tradition. It is through music that we glimpse the vastness of the 19th-century mindset. Lizst’s Faust Symphony, for example, is an ambitious and uncompromising statement of self-belief and faith in the culture of his time. To modern ears, its somewhat bloated proportions don’t really inspire. The work’s three movements depict the main characters of Goethe’s telling of the Faust myth: Faust himself, then Gretchen, and finally the complex and fearsome persona of Mephistopheles.

The RSNO under the statesmanlike baton of Gennadi Rozhdestvensky made an enormous noise, the heavy brass pumping big chords into the Usher Hall, augmented at the end by the men of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, tenor Jonas Kaufmann and an electrically powered organ with eight huge loudspeakers. But for all this brilliance the concert was ideologically un-moving. Beethoven’s Overture The Ruins of Athens ended just as it seemed to get going and Lizst’s Fantasy on the same theme with Victoria Postnikova on pyrotechnic piano again gave us virtuosity but little else.

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