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ClassicsOnline Home » LISZT: Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3 (Transcriptions) (Liszt Complete Piano Music, Vol. 18)
FRANZ LISZT (1811-1886)
Complete Piano Music * Volume 18
Piano Transcriptions of
Beethovens Symphonies (S464/R128)
Symphony No.1 in C major, Op.21
 Adagio molto Allegro con brio
 Andante cantabile con moto
 Menuetto: Allegro molto e vivace
 Adagio - Allegro molto e vivace
Symphony No.3 in E flat major, Op.55 (Eroica)
 Allegro con brio
 Marcia funebre: Adagio assai
 Scherzo: Allegro vivace
 Finale: Allegro molto
Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Piano Transcriptions of Beethovens Symphonies (S464/R128)
Symphony No.1 in C major, Op.21 * Symphony No.3 in E flat major, Op.55 (Eroica)
"Sgambati continues admirably and crescendo. Here is the programme of the first Symphonic Academy at the Dante Gallery, with the Eroica Symphony. It is the first time that this great work has been performed in Rome, and remarkably well, I assure you. It will soon be performed again and gradually the other symphonies of Beethoven will be heard."
Franz Liszt. Letter to Sándor von Bertha. Rome, 16th December 1866
Born at Raiding, in Hungary, in 1811, the son of Adam Liszt, a steward in the service of Haydns former patrons, the Esterházy Princes, Franz Liszt had early encouragement from members of the Hungarian nobility, allowing him in 1822 to move to Vienna, for lessons with Czerny and a famous meeting with Beethoven. From there he moved to Paris, where Cherubini refused him admission to the Conservatoire. Nevertheless he was able to impress audiences by his performance, now supported by the Erard family, piano manufacturers whose wares he was able to advertise in the concert tours on which he embarked. In 1827 Adam Liszt died, and Franz Liszt was now joined again by his mother in Paris, while using his time to teach, to read and benefit from the intellectual society with which he came into contact. His interest in virtuoso performance was renewed when he heard the great violinist Paganini, whose technical accomplishments he now set out to emulate.
The years that followed brought a series of compositions, including transcriptions of songs and operatic fantasies, part of the stock-in-trade of a virtuoso. Liszts relationship with a married woman, the Comtesse Marie dAgoult, led to his departure from Paris for years of travel abroad, first to Switzerland, then back to Paris, before leaving for Italy, Vienna and Hungary. By 1844 his relationship with his mistress, the mother of his three children, was at an end, but his concert activities continued until 1847, the year in which his association began with Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a Polish heiress, the estranged wife of a Russian prince. The following year he settled with her in Weimar, the city of Goethe, turning his attention now to the development of a newer form of orchestral music, the symphonic poem, and, as always, to the revision and publication of earlier compositions.
It was in 1861, at the age of fifty, that Liszt moved to Rome, following Princess Carolyne, who had settled there a year earlier. Divorce and annulment seemed to have opened the way to their marriage, but they now continued to live in separate apartments in the city. Liszt eventually took minor orders and developed a pattern of life that divided his time between Weimar, where he imparted advice to a younger generation, Rome, where he was able to pursue his religious interests, and Pest, where he returned now as a national hero. He died in 1886 in Bayreuth, where his daughter Cosima, former wife of Hans von Bülow and widow of Richard Wagner, lived, concerned with the continued propagation of her husbands music.
Whatever the accuracy of Liszts account, fifty years later, of his meeting with Beethoven in Vienna through the insistence of his then teacher, Czerny, he continued always to hold Beethoven in the greatest respect, a reverence reflected in his activities in the cause of the Beethoven Monuments in Bonn and Vienna and festivals of Beethovens music, and in his inclusion of Beethovens piano compositions in his recitals. Among particularly treasured possessions itemised in the will he made in 1860 were the death mask of Beethoven and his Broadwood piano, which after Liszts death was presented by Princess Carolyne and her daughter, Princess Hohenlohe, to the National Museum in Budapest.
During the summer of 1837, spent at the country house of George Sand at Nohant, Liszt, accompanied there by Marie dAgoult, worked on his piano transcriptions of Beethovens Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6, published in 1840, with a transcription of Symphony No.7. Three years later he made a transcription of the funeral march from the Eroica Symphony. These early versions of Beethoven symphonies were later to be revised and supplemented by transcriptions of the six other symphonies, including, after some reluctance, the Choral Symphony. The new transcriptions were made in 1863 and 1864, with the last movement of the Choral Symphony, over which he had hesitated, added in 1865. In 1863 Liszt had moved to a retreat outside Rome at the monastery of Madonna del Rosario on Monte Mario, home to a handful of religious. Here he occupied a room of great simplicity, with a small and defective piano at his disposal, although the relative tranquillity of his life was occasionally interrupted by visitors, including, on one significant occasion, Pope Pius IX. It was at the urging of Breitkopf and Härtel that he now undertook the revision of his earlier transcriptions of Beethoven symphonies and the completion of the whole set, which was published in 1865 with a dedication to his son-in-law, the pianist and conductor Hans von Bülow.
The transcriptions must speak for themselves. Liszt is meticulous in his accurate reproduction of original phrasing and his specification, where necessary, of the original instrumentation. Critics have compared his transcriptions favourably with the earlier piano versions of the symphonies by the virtuoso pianist Kalkbrenner, a pioneer in this field. Liszt does not primarily seek for technical display, however demanding the transcriptions may be. He is particularly adept in his solution of problems of balance and sonority, and helpful in the suggested fingerings that are included and in the care taken to distinguish parts in notation.
In his transcription of Symphony No.1 Liszt is meticulously accurate in his suggested phrasing, as in the distinction between the first and second subjects of the first movements, with their contrasts of staccato and legato. Accompanying textures are interpreted in pianistic terms, with necessary changes of lay-out to ensure the complete clarity of the writing. This clarity is particularly apparent in the contrapuntal opening to the second movement, where Liszt goes to the heart of the music. The Menuetto matches similar movements in the piano sonatas of the period, with the Trio needing an additional stave in the transcription. The introduction to the last movement, seeming more hesitant than ever, is followed by an idiomatic version of the following Allegro molto e vivace, in which Liszt skilfully avoids any undue thickening of texture.
The Eroica Symphony makes greater demands on a transcriber. Here more than ever Liszt is able to capture the essence of the work, giving sonority through the use of syncopation or divided octaves, never obscuring the part-writing and avoiding the over-dense lower register textures once familiar from four-hand versions of the symphonies, the form in which the works often became more widely known. The funeral march keeps all its original tension, as string chords punctuate the oboe repetition of the main theme. The major trio section, here marked dolce cantando, makes its effect by adjusting the broken triads of the violins. In this movement the contrapuntal writing is fully and effectively displayed, Liszt often revealing his understanding of the work by his very omissions. The Scherzo, as effective as ever in this form, frames the Trio, with its three French horns in characteristic figuration. The Prometheus variations of the Finale, after the initial flourish and the announcement of the skeletal bass of the theme, bring a limpid display of counterpoint, relaxing into the Poco andante sixth variation and the fuller seventh, before the demanding octave-writing of the concluding Presto.
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LISZT: Beethoven Symphonies Nos. 1 and 3 (Transcri...