Artist: Steve Davislim, Chorus Sine Nomine, Orchester Wiener Akademie, Martin Haselbock
Title: Liszt: Faust Symphony, S. 108
Genre: Classical
Release Date: 2017
Duration: 01:08:20
Quality: High-Fidelity FLAC Stereo 24bit/96kHz
Label: Alpha

The Faust Symphony undoubtedly constitutes one of the principal works of Liszt’s Weimar period,if not indeed his orchestral masterpiece. Liszt had become acquainted with Goethe’s poem Faust in 1830, in the French translation of Grard de Nerval. He began composing the work in the 1840s, after a visit to the Goethe House in Weimar. Its first performance was arranged for September 1857, to mark the centenary of Grand Duke Carl August and the erection of a statue to Goethe and Schiller. On this occasion Liszt rounded the work off by adding a tenor solo and chorus at the end. The premiere took place on 5 September.This musical transposition of the poem is performed here by Orchester Wiener Akademie under Martin Haselbck, and follows their recording of Liszt’s transcriptions of works by Schubert, released in 2015 (Alpha 471).In parallel with this, the Viennese period-instrument orchestra is also continuing its Resound Beethoven project, the recording of the complete symphonies at the venues of their first performances.

Apart from Franz Liszt’s innovative symphonic poems, such as Les Prludes and Mazeppa, A Faust Symphony in Three Character Sketches, S. 108 was his most important orchestral work, influencing composers from Richard Wagner to Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, and at well over an hour in duration, greatly expanding the possibilities of the hybrid form. Whereas many Romantic masterpieces have been rendered with historically informed practices, period readings of the Faust Symphony are rare, so Martin Haselbck’s authoritative original-instruments performance with the Vienna Academy Orchestra is a welcome addition to the all too modest catalog of recordings of the work. While the chamber size of the orchestra and rather lean sections tend to concentrate the ear on fine details, and make the Faust Symphony less imposing than more conventional symphony orchestra versions, the smaller ensemble is closer to what Liszt conducted in Weimar, where he premiered the Faust Symphony in 1857, and he would have prized the clarity of this group’s sonorities and responsive dynamics. Haselbck and his orchestra recorded Liszt’s other orchestral music for a series on NCA, though the Faust Symphony was not included there, so this 2017 Alpha Classics release fills the gap for collectors. Highly recommended.


  1. Faust Symphony, S. 108: I. Faust – 26:59
  2. Faust Symphony, S. 108: II. Gretchen – 17:36
  3. Faust Symphony, S. 108: III. Mephistopheles – IV. Chorus Mysticus – 23:45