Movement 1: Allegro vivace e con brio
Movement 2: Allegretto scherzando
Movement 3: Tempo di menuetto [ – Trio – Menuetto]
Movement 4: Allegro vivace
The famous metronomic Allegretto scherzando makes such a winsome piano piece that it ought to have acquired a life of its own as an encore piece long since, the only proviso being that the piano needs to have a very repeatable middle B flat for the last bar.
Since the slow movement is relatively fast, the Minuet is comparatively stately. Liszt keeps the texture unfussy, and even allows the basses of the last cadence to sound two octaves higher than in the score. The Trio, on the other hand, cannot help but be awkward in order to preserve the independence of clarinet, horns and cello. Liszt gives the rhythm of the horn part in the third bar as in the earlier Steiner edition—i.e. identical to the two previous bars. The present performance adopts the familiar Breitkopf reading with the dotted crotchet on the second beat.
Despite his inclusion of Beethoven’s frightening metronome mark in the finale, of 84 semibreves to the minute, Liszt also has a footnote detailing the necessity of preserving Beethoven’s phrasing in the oft-repeated three-note rhythm (two quavers together separated from the following crotchet rather than all three notes slurred together) which renders the tempo somewhat slower. Throughout the movement, Liszt shows great variety in his approach to the constant repeated triplets, sometimes wisely permitting four repeated chords in place of six, sometimes inventing a line of moving triplets instead of repeated chords, and just occasionally demanding seven repetitions of a single note. Beethoven’s humour emerges as ever, no matter what the technical cost, whether in the intruding D flats/C sharps or in the juggling of the major third up and down the orchestra at the coda.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1993