Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Symphonic Poems, transcribed August Stradal (1860-1930) - Volume 1
Les Préludes: Symphonic Poem No. 3 (1848) [17:05]
Heroïde Funèbre: Symphonic Poem No. 8 (1850) [19:19]
Die Ideale: Symphonic Poem No. 12 (1857) [28:51]
Risto-Matti Marin (piano)
rec. Kuusaa Hall, Kuusankoski 29 November-1 December 2007. DDD
first recordings
TOCCATA TOCC0035 [65:15]
In the mid-1970s several cycles of the Liszt Beethoven symphonies emerged including one from Cyprien Katsaris and another later from various pianists on Naxos. What Liszt did for Beethoven August Stradal did for Liszt's symphonic poems and two orchestral symphonies. Even so Stradal's were not the first. One of Liszt's other pupils Tausig transcribed twelve of the thirteen but the Czech Stradal was the first to apply the treatment to all thirteen. It was Liszt's habit to make transcriptions for two pianos from the versions Raff had orchestrated. He generally avoided transcription for solo piano though exceptionally he made such a version of Les Préludes. Stradal made virtuoso transcriptions which, according to the annotator, Malcolm Macdonald are marked up to show the original orchestration and in which Stradal took painstakingly inventive steps to reflect in his piano solutions. Stradal studied with Liszt and with Bruckner and wrote reminiscences of each.
This is the first Stradal-Liszt cycle. I expected it to be a curiosity only. In fact it is much better especially in the hands of Risto-Matti Marin who has no reservations about grandiloquence or sentiment. Les Préludes here has both sweetness and grandstanded grandeur aplenty. Héroïde Funèbre protests and rumbles deep in the de profundis realms of the keyboard with such gruff ruminations jostling with stern Finlandia-defiant rhetoric. Die Ideale again attends to the composer's halting accentuation, dramatisation and delicious sentimentalising.
Marin is in splendid form throughout and this can be borne out through listening to the lunar glow he lends the quiet piano chords within Die Ideale's first five minutes.
The commanding launch of an unlikely but more than merely meritorious endeavour for Marin to record the complete transcriptions. I suspect they are all already in the can. It's just a matter of money and release schedules. In any event this adds a munificent chapter to Liszt's complete solo piano works to place alongside the major cycles by Leslie Howard and Gunnar Johansen.
Toccata continue to challenge the listener who complains of the companies' failure to move away from crossover and the common repertoire rut. More please.
Rob Barnett

Adding a munificent chapter to Liszt's piano works. ... see Full Review