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Hyperion Records

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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: 31 minutes 44 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 4 in B flat major, S464/4
Op 60

Adagio  [9'00]

Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
Like the Second Symphony, the Symphony No 4 (1806, dedicated to Count Oppersdorf, transcribed 1863) has always had something of an unjustified second-class status beside the larger odd-numbered symphonies. The humour in the piece is offset by the dark seriousness of the introduction, which Liszt clearly had some difficulty in transcribing: the main text unsatisfactorily presents the held woodwind B flat octave for the requisite five bars, with the right hand obliged to descend and move through parallel octaves with the left, making the upper notes impossible to sustain. The alternative, employed here, is a demanding pianissimo five-bar octave tremolo for the right hand, and the rest of the material, less one octave doubling, is entrusted to the left hand alone. Liszt responds to the contrasting gaiety of the Allegro with a barrage of piano pyrotechnics which recall the textures of several of his studies. Remarkably, none of this does any violence to Beethoven’s score. And Liszt’s decision to turn the timpani B flat in the run-up to the recapitulation into a tremolo with the lower F is a stroke of genius.

The sublime Adagio is transcribed with all its grandeur intact, with fearless recourse to legato octave passagework in the left hand wherever Beethoven’s original string parts demand it. The main theme in all its guises requires the utmost cantabile to be preserved by half of the right hand whilst the other half sustains the dotted rhythm which pervades the whole movement.

The third movement—the first of Beethoven’s symphonic scherzos to adopt the five-part form of scherzo-trio-scherzo-trio-coda which we see again in the Sixth and Seventh Symphonies and which Beethoven originally intended for the Fifth, too—is a boisterous, straightforward affair, neatly transcribed. At the opening of the Trio, Liszt gives two texts: the ossia conforming to Beethoven’s letter, the main text moving the melody down an octave, the better to separate the violin line.

The constant semiquaver figuration in the last movement seems to have perplexed Liszt a little. In one passage towards the end of the Symphony he omits it altogether and proceeds in quavers, while in earlier places he juxtaposes a single line of semiquavers with an alternative suggestion of triplet octaves, or interlocking octaves between the hands. But he has captured splendidly Beethoven’s reckless bonhomie.

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)  
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