Classical Music Home

The World's Leading Classical Music Group

Email Password  
Not a subscriber yet?
Keyword Search
in
 
 Classical Music Home > Naxos Album Reviews

Album Reviews



 
See latest reviews of other albums...

Ates Orga
International Piano, January 2005

"Time was when Liszt's enduringly extraordinary partitions of Beethoven's symphonies, published integrally in 1865 dedicated to Hans von Bülow, were rarely encountered beasts. Odd ones would surface occasionally - from Glenn Gould (Nos 5, 6), Ronald Smith (No 7), Roger Woodward (No 3), Earl Wild (No 1)- and David Wilde wrote admiringly of them in Walker's 1970 Franz Liszt symposium. Once at an Abbey Road recording session I remember Ashkenazy taking time off with the Eighth. Chances though of hearing a complete run were nil. That changed with Idil Biret who recorded them in 1985-86 (EMI Germany; selectively reissued on CD in Japan in 1990), giving the first known public performance of the cycle at the '86 Montpellier Festival. Biret pioneered the way. Cyprien Katsaris (Teldec, 1982-89, still available) followed. Then came Leslie Howard (Hyperion, 1990-92; first versions of 5, 6 and 7, 1996). How you approach these transcriptions, their texts and ossias, has a lot to do with how successfully they'll work. Woodward's way was to de-classicise the music into romantic sonata. Recorded in a big acoustic, Katsaris's was to take the piano beyond the orchestra, welding the texture at high temperature, mixing the fiercely grand with the impetuously unreined and frankly idiosyncratic, his (quasi-Stokowky) 'improvements', octave transfers and (monsterously toned) instrument suggesting if not exceeding the sounds and baying climaxes of late romantic forces replete with reinforced string sections and doubled-up wind and brass. Understandably critical of those taking licences or abbreviating, Howard, faithful to the notes but less physically involving or spiritually exultant, goes for back-packing ruggedness. With Katsaris, the more technically complete artist, you're promised a prodigious, pulverising performance firing on all cylinders; with Howard you contract to a road-test, not without rough-and-ready corners. Both, arguably, end up fatiguing the ears.

If you want Beethoven for modern times, purged of excesses, guided by the period revival movement, then Siberian-born, Naumov-trained, Swiss-based Scherbakov, whose Naxos cycle was launched in 1999 with an epic Second and Fifth (8.550457), has to be your man. Like Katsaris and Howard, but not the wavering Biret, he doesn't question exposition repeats (giving us an Eroica more psychologically rounded than many a conductor will dare). Like them he creates in performance a genuine sense of orchestral symphony rather than piano sonata or 'super sonata' (Howard's appellation). But he is less inclined to mannerism or gratuitous thunder, and he places an absolute premium on the parameters Liszt himself used to emphasise to his students - clarity of line, articulation and polyphony. Supporting a sound world preferring ambient salon to cavernous amphitheatre, his pedalling is more discrete. Staccato work, the illusion of crisp tonguing and bow bouncing of string, is fabulous. Benefitting (to Howard's disadvantage) from production, engineering and editing of the very highest standard, he seems in many ways to be the pianist these arrangements have been waiting for - a man formally astute and technically consumate, as much conductor as keyboard paragon, a romantic of classical cut sensitive to period, style and detail, not in the business of inflating or abusing the medium. He knows his Beethoven, he feels his Liszt, he relishes the voicing and response of his piano. The chemistry is powerful, the ease and naturalness of the playing wholly persuasive, the emotion unforced. Pianistically, there's no cooler disciplined, more convincingly honest an Eroica or C major around. Overall timings (No 1 slower than Howard; No 3 quicker than Katsaris) don't begin to tell the story."



Kevin Sutton
MusicWeb International, November 2004

"This is Volume 18 in Naxos's series of the complete solo piano music of Franz Liszt. Of course, some will assert that the inclusion of these transcriptions in this cycle is completely unnecessary, since the music is more Beethoven's than Liszt's. Further, there are a good many who contend the transcriptions of the symphonies shouldn't be played or recorded at all, regardless of whose music you consider it to be, since they are inferior to the original orchestral versions. Both these positions are well taken, but both fail to explain why I and countless others can and do immensely enjoy these piano treatments, and even see-or rather hear-Beethoven's original scores in a different light while listening to them.

I especially derive new insights, however miniscule they may sometimes be, from these interpretations by Russian pianist Konstantin Scherbakov. Clearly, he understands Beethoven's symphonies and his performances suggest he might one day take to the podium and achieve fine results. What Scherbakov grasps here that is most important in bringing of this music is that Liszt was not attempting to imitate the sonorities in Beethoven's symphonies but rather capture the spirit of their scores on the keyboard. Certain reductions and approximations had to be made, but the notes sound out the essence of the score. And to those who think transcription is a science and not an art-that Liszt's effort involved little imagination-they should listen to his rendition of the Eroica, especially to the second movement, whose Adagio assai tempo and often quiet sustaining tones conspire against any piano treatment. Yet, this one sounds perfectly convincing, perfectly valid.

That said, while Liszt probably should get the biggest share of the credit, Scherbakov must claim his. This is quite simply one of the most convincing interpretations of this symphony in any instrumental incarnation I've ever heard: yes, Scherbakov should conduct! His magical, imaginative treatment of the alternate theme in the Marcia funebre is simply stunning. He gives the music such a light, almost fantasy-like air, perfectly contrasting it to the grim main theme. His compelling first movement appropriately lives up to the 'heroic' moniker of the work, and the Scherzo is witty and effervescent, full of color and vibrancy. The finale mixes heroism and playfulness, and settles into triumph on a grand scale. It must be said too, that parts of this score are quite challenging for the pianist-try the Scherzo for some real virtuosic playing, at least as delivered by Scherbakov.

The First Symphony also comes across well here, Scherbakov capturing the more youthful nature of the score brilliantly. In the end, this disc must be counted among the most convincing of its kind. The sound is excellent and Keith Anderson's notes, as usual, are informative. Highly recommended!"



Jed Distler
ClassicsToday.com, June 2002

"Konstantin Scherbakov follows his earlier release in Naxos' complete Liszt piano music cycle with two more Beethoven symphonies 'de-orchestrated' in Liszt's inimitably ingenuous fashion. At the outset, let me say that Scherbakov's powerful, fluent technique easily outclasses recent contenders such as the participants in Hungaroton's multi-pianist survey of the nine Beethoven/Liszt symphony transcriptions. For instance, he takes Beethoven's "con brio" marking at face value in the First Symphony's Allegro, dispatching Liszt's ambidextrous octaves with consummate ease. In contrast to Earl Wild's steadily building drama, Scherbakov occasionally lingers over local details (as in the first movement's second subject), but not to detrimental effect...Let's hope Naxos has booked Scherbakov to record the five remaining Beethoven/Liszt symphonies."



Jed Distler
ClassicsToday.com, November 2001

"Konstantin Scherbakov follows his earlier release in Naxos' complete Liszt piano music cycle with two more Beethoven symphonies 'de-orchestrated' in Liszt's inimitably ingenuous fashion. At the outset, let me say that Scherbakov's powerful, fluent technique easily outclasses recent contenders such as the participants in Hungaroton's multi-pianist survey of the nine Beethoven/Liszt symphony transcriptions. For instance, he takes Beethoven's "con brio" marking at face value in the First Symphony's Allegro, dispatching Liszt's ambidextrous octaves with consummate ease. In contrast to Earl Wild's steadily building drama, Scherbakov occasionally lingers over local details (as in the first movement's second subject), but not to detrimental effect...Let's hope Naxos has booked Scherbakov to record the five remaining Beethoven/Liszt symphonies."






Famous Composers Quick Link:
Bach | Beethoven | Chopin | Dowland | Handel | Haydn | Mozart | Glazunov | Schumann | R Strauss | Vivaldi
3:51:50 AM, 23 August 2014
All Naxos Historical, Naxos Classical Archives, Naxos Jazz, Folk and Rock Legends and Naxos Nostalgia titles are not available in the United States and some titles may not be available in Australia and Singapore because these countries have copyright laws that provide or may provide for terms of protection for sound recordings that differ from the rest of the world.
Copyright © 2014 Naxos Digital Services Ltd. All rights reserved.     Terms of Use     Privacy Policy
-208-
Classical Music Home
NOTICE: This site was unavailable for several hours on Saturday, June 25th 2011 due to some unexpected but essential maintenance work. We apologize for any inconvenience.