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 Tafelmusik Orchestral under Bruno Weil on Analekta
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.
recordings were originally issued as part of a set by EMI
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.
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).
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.
Note from Idil Biret
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.