Hyperion Records

Symphony No 7 in A major, S464/7
Op 92
second 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
Buy by post £40.00 CDA66671/5  5CDs  
'Liszt: Complete Piano Music' (CDS44501/98)
Liszt: Complete Piano Music
Buy by post £200.00 CDS44501/98  99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)  
Movement 1: Poco sostenuto – Vivace
Track 1 on CDA66671/5 CD4 [14'46] 5CDs
Track 1 on CDS44501/98 CD65 [14'46] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Movement 2: Allegretto
Track 2 on CDA66671/5 CD4 [9'55] 5CDs
Track 2 on CDS44501/98 CD65 [9'55] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Movement 3: Presto – Assai meno presto – Da capo [tutto] – Presto – Assai meno presto – Presto
Track 3 on CDA66671/5 CD4 [9'08] 5CDs
Track 3 on CDS44501/98 CD65 [9'08] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
Movement 4: Allegro con brio
Track 4 on CDA66671/5 CD4 [8'57] 5CDs
Track 4 on CDS44501/98 CD65 [8'57] 99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)

Symphony No 7 in A major, S464/7
Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 was completed in 1812 and dedicated to Landgrave Moritz von Fries. Liszt made his transcription of it by early 1838. (At that stage Liszt was prepared to transcribe just the Fifth, Sixth, Seventh and Third Symphonies, and in fact only produced the first three of these. Just the second movement of the ‘Eroica’ followed in 1841, and the remainder was not put in train until 1863.) Like the early versions of the transcriptions of the Fifth and Sixth, the Seventh was dedicated to Ingres. This first version was published in 1843 and a copy of it was the basis for the second version, which was made in 1863 and dedicated, like the whole series, to Hans von Bülow. As with the similar cases of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, the two versions make interesting comparison, but the second version, as recorded here, eliminates some technical details which, although faithful to Beethoven’s text, obscure matters in performance. The Seventh remains one of the most difficult of Liszt’s transcriptions.

The mighty introduction somehow emerges with its full stature, even though many elements have to be transposed up or down an octave in order for all the lines to fit within the mortal compass of the hand. If the spirit of the dance informs Beethoven’s Vivace it becomes quite a high-kicking affair in Liszt’s arrangement where the leap is the predominant step, to such an extent that one often seems to be playing in three different registers of the piano at once, especially in the coda.

As with so many of the slow movements, Liszt’s version of the Allegretto is a masterpiece of the transcriber’s art. In every variant of the melody after the countermelody has joined in there are at least two disparate things which must be managed by the right hand, whilst everything else must somehow be reached by the left. And although Liszt has to resort to octave transpositions from time to time he does a marvellous job of keeping everything going, even in the treacherous fugato.

Whether or not one attempts the ossia passages, the Scherzo remains a prodigious piece of pyrotechnics—just as it is for the orchestra. These alternatives come at every bar where Beethoven has a trill in the original. Liszt begins the trill and ends with an arpeggiated Nachschlag which spirits the line to the upper octave for each answering bar. The resulting colours are well worth the effort, even though the nine consecutive trills at the end of the Scherzo are not for the faint-hearted. The repeat from bar 148 back to bar 25 is respected by Liszt, if not by many a contemporary conductor.

One of the greatest alterations between the two versions of Liszt’s transcription concerns the Trio, which is given very grandly in the first version but approached with a much simpler attitude in the present version, even leaving out Beethoven’s octave doublings until the fortissimo shortly before the Scherzo and Trio are repeated entire (save the ritornelli).

The finale, like the first movement, requires a good deal of stamina but manages to convey just the right rumbustious atmosphere. The few proposed simpler alternatives are of so little respite in the face of the general order of things that they are best ignored, as here.

from notes by Leslie Howard © 1993

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Details for CDA66671/5 disc 4 track 1
Poco sostenuto – Vivace
Recording date
30 April 1993
Recording venue
St Martin's Church, Newbury, United Kingdom
Recording producer
Tryggvi Tryggvason
Recording engineer
Tryggvi Tryggvason
Hyperion usage
  1. Liszt: Complete Piano Music (CDS44501/98)
    Disc 65 Track 1
    Release date: February 2011
    99CDs Boxed set + book (at a special price)
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