Hyperion Records

Symphony No 6 in F major 'Pastoral', S464/6
Op 68
final version

'Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 22 – The Beethoven Symphonies' (CDA66671/5)
Liszt: The complete music for solo piano, Vol. 22 – The Beethoven Symphonies
'Liszt: Complete Piano Music' (CDS44501/98)
Liszt: Complete Piano Music
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Movement 1: Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande: Allegro ma non troppo
Track 5 on CDA66671/5 CD3 [11'32] 5CDs
Track 5 on CDS44501/98 CD64 [11'32] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Movement 2: Szene am Bach: Andante molto moto
Track 6 on CDA66671/5 CD3 [13'07] 5CDs
Track 6 on CDS44501/98 CD64 [13'07] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Movement 3: Lustiges Zusammensein der Landleute: Allegro 3/4 – Allegro 2/4 – Da capo [tutto] – Tempo I
Track 7 on CDA66671/5 CD3 [5'10] 5CDs
Track 7 on CDS44501/98 CD64 [5'10] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Movement 4: Donner – Sturm: Allegro
Track 8 on CDA66671/5 CD3 [3'22] 5CDs
Track 8 on CDS44501/98 CD64 [3'22] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Movement 5: Hirtengesang 'Frohe dankbare Gefühle nach dem Sturm': Allegretto
Track 9 on CDA66671/5 CD3 [9'07] 5CDs
Track 9 on CDS44501/98 CD64 [9'07] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

Symphony No 6 in F major 'Pastoral', S464/6
Liszt had a great success with the Symphonie pastorale from the beginning. It was probably the first of the Beethoven Symphonies that he set himself to transcribe, and he played at least the last three movements at many a public concert. Beethoven completed the work at about the same time as the previous Symphony, in 1808. The historical details of Liszt’s transcription are more or less identical to those for the Fifth Symphony, with the exception of one eight-bar passage in the fifth movement (the last statement of the main theme at bar 133) where he simplified it for the Breitkopf edition of 1840 (the final version is simpler again, although perhaps rather a compromise with Beethoven’s text where, it must be said, rather too many lines jostle for importance for one pianist ever to be able to render them). (For the Neue Liszt-Ausgabe to refer to the final version as the ‘third version’ on the strength of an eight-bar amendment seems a needless addition of confusion to an already dreadfully cluttered catalogue.)

The greatest problem facing the interpreter of Liszt’s transcription is the preservation of outward peace when the hands are being put through contortions, frequently involving the quiet stretching of elevenths. But that said, the Sixth remains perhaps the most congenial of all of the Symphonies from a pianistic point of view. ‘The Awakening of joyful feelings upon arrival in the countryside’ revels in the joy of finding all of Beethoven’s textures so faithfully reconceived in such grateful writing. And not a ripple or birdsong is missed in the ‘Scene by the Brook’—to the extent of some dangerous left-hand stretches simultaneous with combined trills and melodies in the right hand. And tranquil athleticism is the only way to describe the requirements at the recapitulation with its added clarinet and violin arpeggios.

Liszt apparently told Berlioz that he played the second eight bars of the ‘Happy gathering of the country folk’ slightly slower because they represented the old peasants—in contrast with the young peasants at the opening. Few conductors would gamble their reputations upon such a risk in performance, but it seems like an excellent idea to have in mind whilst performing the piece. High points of the transcription include the wonderfully mad bit with the fiddle ostinato, the oboe melody and the artless bassoon which turns out to be quite a challenge at the keyboard, and the whole 2/4 section which imitates the bagpipe and brings the flute counterpoint into much finer prominence than most orchestral balance usually achieves.

‘The Thunderstorm’ is an inspired piece of virtuoso writing. Just as Beethoven extends the demands on his orchestra in the interest of special effects, so does Liszt mirror them in equivalent pianistic devices, and the relief when the storm subsides is almost tangible in both cases. Similarly, the ‘Shepherds’ Song. Joyful, thankful feelings after the storm’ finds Liszt at one with Beethoven’s spirit. In the matter of the text there is one serious blip at bar 225 where Liszt does not pick up a mistakenly transcribed harmony from his first version: he has a simple dominant seventh where he ought to have an F instead of an E. (The F is restored in the present reading.) Whereas it is a conscious decision of Liszt’s to make a clean final cadence and sacrifice the last falling semiquavers of the basses.

from notes by Leslie Howard © 1993

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