Épisode de la vie d'un artiste – Grande Symphonie fantastique par Hector Berlioz, S470
Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique
requires no introduction or apology, but things were not so in the early years of its history. Although Berlioz had a certain success with the work, it took some time before it became a repertoire piece. Publishers for the parts and score could not be found, and Liszt’s transcription represents the work’s first appearance in print. Liszt proselytised endlessly for this and many another work of his great colleague, and the transcription served to clarify many a mind confused by an inadequate orchestral performance of the piece. Schumann was obliged to fall back upon Liszt’s transcription to review the work—fortunately, Liszt supplies copious indications of the original orchestration—and this remained the only printed score until 1845. By this time, Berlioz had permitted himself a good many alterations to the original text, and it has become somewhat common for pianists to alter Liszt’s transcription correspondingly. But because, for example, there is a strikingly different passage in the second movement, it has been decided for this recording to present the transcription as it was originally published. The only solution which has to be made is towards the end of the first movement, where Liszt places on a third stave the notes which he perhaps felt that two hands might not be able to reach, but which, with very little adjustment, can actually be grafted onto the main text. The fourth movement is given here in its original transcription too, rather than the 1865 revision which was intended for separate performance, is somewhat simplified, and is extended with an introduction—a rather weak revision of Liszt’s excellent little propaganda piece: Idée fixe
(recorded on Volume 5, CDA66346).
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1991