Although Capriccio's front cover mentions only the Dante Symphony, the major attraction here is the rarely heard orchestration of A la Chapelle Sixtine. In its more familiar organ guise, this paraphrase interleaving Allegri's Miserere and Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus can sound fairly gluey; and while the leaner piano edition has more punch (see Fanfare 15:4), the orchestral adaptation is more engaging still. Indeed, from the tormented seething of its opening to the ethereal halo of its close, the play of colors and textures maintains an almost mesmerizing grip, and reminds us (as do Orpheus and the orchestral Legends) that, for all his reputation for flashy instrumentation, some of Liszt's most impressive orchestral writing is found in his purest, least effect-driven music. Haenchen's live performance is fully committed; and except for some tentative solo strings, the orchestra plays glowingly.
There's more competition, of course, in the Dante Symphony. But even though these forces can't match the concentration of Barenboim (18:2), especially in the "Inferno," they do offer a convincing reading, one that's sensitive both to the symphony's local quirks (note how knowingly they handle the tricky rhythmic displacements of the Lamentoso fugue in the second movement) and to its long-range structure (the transition into the choral entry is especially well handled), and one that manages to avoid the sense of anticlimax that saps most performances of the "Magnificat."
Reasonably good sound; decent notes; incorrect timings on the jacket. If you're a casual Lisztian in search of the Dante Symphony, I'd still advise the Barenboim; but for those interested in the less familiar corners of Liszt's output, this is a must. Peter J. Rabinowitz