Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1826),
transcribed Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Symphony no.6 in F, op.68 (1808), arr. for piano (1837/1841), S.464/6
Symphony no.2 in D, op.36 (1801-02), arr. for piano (1841), S.464/2
Yury Martynov (piano)
rec. St Peter's Church, Leut-Maasmechelen, Belgium, 26-29 September 2011. DDD
ZIG-ZAG TERRITOIRES (OUTHERE) ZZT 301 [77:58]
Liszt's transcriptions - which in fact hover somewhere between
true reproduction and arrangement - have been recorded several
times before, whether single Symphonies or whole cycles. Most
infamously perhaps by Glenn Gould, so idiosyncratic a pianist
that his renderings sound like Beethoven-arranged-Liszt-arranged-Gould.
In recent years, two cycles - budget in price but certainly
not in terms of artistic quality - have appeared on Naxos, by
the scandalously underrated Turkish pianist Idil Biret - available
either on standard-issue CDs or part of their Idil Biret Archive
(8.506027 is the complete boxed set) - and by the fine Russian
virtuoso Konstantin Scherbakov, likewise available separately
or in a boxed set (8.505219). Some collectors will be lucky
enough to own Leslie Howard's priceless 98-CD recording of Liszt's
complete piano music on Hyperion (review),
which includes all his Beethoven transcriptions, amounting to
Martynov's own performance here is little short of sensational,
particularly in the Sixth where he tackles the phenomenal difficulty
of the 'Storm' movement with a stunning virtuosity that would
have had Liszt the performer nodding in approval, and the sublime
serenity of the 'Scene beside the Stream' with a spiritual expressiveness
that would have moved Liszt the abbé. Martynov is happy
to slow Liszt's pace in places to enhance textures, as Biret
frequently does, but he can also call upon Scherbakov's emotional
intensity to communicate the profundity of Beethoven's originals.
With no sign of fatigue after such a mammoth effort, Martynov
is totally convincing too in the Second Symphony, which in Liszt's
unerring transcription sounds as if it could have been an original
piano sonata. It helps that he plays an 1837 Erard piano, which
has a bright, clear yet subtle tone ideally suited to Liszt's
Robert Schumann's original reservations aside, critical opinion
of these transcriptions has nearly always been very favourable.
Liszt naturally held Beethoven in the highest esteem - unlike
the critic in this bizarre review
of Cyprien Katsaris' complete recording of the transcriptions
- and was very careful not to be seen trying to 'improve' upon
his hero's genius, eschewing gratuity and bravura and going
so far as to suggest fingerings to ensure clarity of parts.
He does omit bits of detail here and there where he knows the
piano cannot do justice to the layers of the orchestral original,
yet most of the time his solutions to the substantial timbral
difficulties arising from the transference of orchestra - especially
Beethoven's - to piano range from the inspired to the miraculous.
Sound quality is very good. The French-English booklet notes
are voluminous, detailed, informative, sober and well translated
- full marks to Zig-Zag. Curiously, the translator's name is
given, but not the original author's, apart from Liszt's in
his appealingly humble foreword to the 1865 edition of his transcriptions.
With regard to which, in sum, both Liszt and Martynov "help
to propagate knowledge of the masters and the appreciation of
the beautiful" with flying colours.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk