For some inscrutable reason Liszt subtitled his transcription of the Tannhäuser
. A paraphrase it most certainly is not, and, with the tiniest exceptions, it proceeds faithfully, bar-for-bar, with Wagner’s score (the Dresden version, of course) and deserves to be considered alongside the transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies, the Weber overtures, the William Tell
Overture and the major orchestral works of Berlioz. Uniquely amongst Liszt’s works, the score contains no pedal directions at all, but the performer is instructed to use his discretion in the matter. On the face of it, the job is plainly to attempt an orchestral fullness of sound, and the few directions that one can transfer from parallel passages in the transcription of the Pilgrims’ Chorus suggest that one is to paint in broad strokes, and that the brass chords are the important foundation – upper details being of secondary importance. The transcription used to be a very popular warhorse at piano recitals, and it was memorably recorded by the great Benno Moiseiwitsch. Nowadays it is very seldom attempted in public – a pity.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1999