Please wait...

Hyperion Records

Click cover art to view larger version
Liszt spielt (detail) (1840) by Josef Danhauser
Track(s) taken from CDA66671/5
Recording details: April 1993
St Martin's Church, Newbury, United Kingdom
Produced by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Engineered by Tryggvi Tryggvason
Release date: April 1993
Total duration: 34 minutes 40 seconds

'This really is a pretty phenomenal achievement. I urge Lisztians to hear it, and even those who collect the proper versions of the Beethoven Symphonies—it is a marvellous way of hearing them afresh' (Gramophone)

'The combination of devotion and diligence which both [Leslie Howard] and Liszt had lavished on getting to the heart of these inexhaustible works is staggering' (Classic CD)

'Howard's performances are, like nearly all in this series, consistently distinguished' (Fanfare, USA)

Symphony No 2 in D major, S464/2
Op 36

Larghetto  [11'50]
Allegro molto  [6'04]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Beethoven’s Symphony No 2 was completed around the end of 1802 and it bears a dedication to Prince Lichnowsky. Interestingly, Beethoven himself made a transcription of the work (without dedication) for piano, violin and cello, most probably in 1805. Liszt’s transcription, dedicated as usual to his then son-in-law von Bülow, dates from 1863. We do not know if Liszt was familiar with Beethoven’s trio version, but it is illuminating to note the many similarities of Beethoven’s piano part to Liszt’s transcription: the fiendish opening theme of the last movement must perforce go to the piano, repeated notes and all, in Liszt’s version, but it is delightful to see that Beethoven, even with a violin in his ensemble which could have taken the original first violin line, also gives it to the piano.

Just as Beethoven’s introduction marks a colossal advance upon that of the First Symphony, so Liszt’s transcription responds with wonderful imagination and dexterity (over which he felt obliged to offer a simpler alternative, not resorted to on this recording). Other alternative suggestions (incorporated in the present performance) do not strictly adhere to Beethoven’s letter, but seem better to capture the spirit: two little replacements of tremolos by arpeggios towards the end of the first subject group, and some left-hand figurations at the end of the exposition are well worth playing. At the end of the movement, Liszt’s main text simplifies Beethoven’s by turning semiquavers into triplets, but the original rhythm, offered as an ossia, is preferable.

The piano writing in the Larghetto (surely one of Beethoven’s most glorious inspirations, unaccountably dismissed by him in later years) goes to extraordinary lengths to imitate the orchestration. The peacefulness of the general effect belies the amount of hand-crossing and finger-interlocking which Liszt requires in order to preserve the details.

Of course the piano cannot really imitate Beethoven’s splendid tossing of one-bar fragments about the orchestra which constitutes the theme of the Scherzo, but Liszt’s arrangement is nevertheless full of leaps, ever-changing dynamics, and great quantities of general brio.

As in the first movement, Liszt offers one or two passages in a simplified texture in the finale. But the general technical order is of such a level that one might as well attempt the tougher versions which in any case are closer to Beethoven’s text. Any notion of this being a rather lightweight and simple symphony are properly dispelled by the whole nature of Liszt’s approach to it.

from notes by Leslie Howard © 1993

Other albums featuring this work
'Liszt: Complete Piano Music' (CDS44501/98)
Liszt: Complete Piano Music
MP3 £160.00FLAC £160.00ALAC £160.00Buy by post £200.00 CDS44501/98  99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)  
   English   Français   Deutsch