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Symphony for solo piano

CD: Crotchet
Download: Classicsonline

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 1 in C Op. 21 (transcr. Liszt) [26:32]
Symphony No. 2 in D Op. 36 (transcr. Liszt) [37:53]
Idil Biret (piano)
rec. September 1985, March 1986, Brussels, Belgium. DDD
IDIL BIRET ARCHIVE 8.571252 [64:25]
Experience Classicsonline

Recently I have had two discs for review which managed to say something fresh and interesting about of Beethoven’s symphonies – works which can seem over-recorded. They were Sir Henry Wood conducting the Eroica on Beulah and the Tafelmusik Orchestral under Bruno Weil on Analekta in 7 and 8. Now comes this superb disc of Liszt’s transcriptions of the first two symphonies which I find to my surprise goes even further in terms of sheer musical interest.
These recordings were originally issued as part of a set by EMI but have now been reissued in a series which will include all the piano sonatas and concertos together with these transcriptions. I have not come across them before but am now greedy to hear the rest. Ms Biret says in her notes that the greatest compliment one could pay the interpreter of a symphonic transcription would be to tell them that it sounds just as if the original had been conceived for the piano. That is precisely the effect we have here. The careful weighting of chords, articulation of individual lines and avoidance of mere hammering away in the loudest passages together result in a complex whole that is at once wholly pianistic and a faithful translation of the original into another medium. The start of the Second Symphony is a good example of this. It is very slow and every chord is carefully weighted and placed. The overall effect is riveting, especially as the texture becomes more complex but its various parts remain clear. What was a glorious orchestral texture has become in these marvellous transcriptions and this imaginative performance pure piano music.
The recording is comfortable and realistic and the notes – by Bill Newman and Ms Biret - are full and helpful. The first movement repeats are omitted in both Symphonies (see note).
You may well feel that you have enough recordings of these symphonies in your collection, but I nevertheless urge you to listen to these as a complement which will make you go back to compare them with the originals and to marvel yet again at these extraordinary works and also at Liszt’s recreative genius.
John Sheppard
Note from Idil Biret
On the question of the repeats mentioned by Mr. Sheppard; the repeats were omitted in some cases because these recordings were made for LP production and time limits had to be observed. I have performed all the repeats in the sonatas' recordings.


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