Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)/Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Symphony No. 6 in F Op. 68 Pastoral [51:53]
Ashley Wass (fortepiano)
rec. Great Chamber of Restoration House, Rochester, Kent, 3-5 April 2011

Liszt’s transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies are now no longer treated as mere curiosities but as imaginative recreations of the originals in a wholly different medium. Obviously in no sense do they supplant the original works but they do provide a new perspective. They free the listener from the preconceptions that arise with music so well known and otherwise unlikely to surprise, however satisfying in other ways an orchestral performance can be. In the case of the present account there is an additional element of surprise that derives from the use of a Girkowsky fortepiano made in Moravia in the mid-1820s - after the original Symphony but before Liszt’s arrangement.
It is indeed surprise that was for me the main characteristic of this performance. There is an abruptness to many phrases that usually sound so much more regular and straightforward in orchestral performance, and a transparency to the texture that reveals unexpected connections, not to mention the strange sounds produced on this instrument in the storm. No surprise therefore that in a lengthy and interesting note Ashley Wass accepts that this is a “Marmite” performance in that it will delight some and appal others. I am firmly in the former camp. Listening to this disc, especially with a recorded sound which is obviously that of a smallish domestic interior rather than a concert hall, is like enjoying a pair of commentaries on the Symphony from Liszt and Wass. Not everything is convincing but there is no mistaking the imaginations at work here. Ashley Wass says that he hopes that the recording captures some of the fun he had when making it. It certainly did for me, and if my immediate reaction after hearing it was to compare it with a recording of Beethoven’s original I suspect that Wass and Liszt would wholly approve.
John Sheppard 

Surprise was for me the main characteristic of this performance.