Movement 1: Adagio – Allegro vivace
Movement 2: Adagio
Movement 3: Menuetto: Allegro vivace – Trio: Un poco meno allegro – Tempo I – Un poco meno Allegro – Tempo I
Movement 4: Allegro ma non troppo
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