About this Recording
8.570466 - LISZT: Beethoven - Symphony No. 9 (arr. for 2 pianos) (Liszt Complete Piano Music, Vol. 28)
English  German 

Franz Liszt (1811–1886)
Two Piano Transcription of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (S657/R376)


Nevertheless one meets here and there some artists who protest their high esteem for the classical music of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven – but it is rather like the way that one hears sometimes in other capitals some society women boast of the profundities of German philosophy, of which they take good care not to have a closer knowledge.
Liszt to Friedrich Wilhelm Constantin, Prince von Hohenzollern-Hechingen. Rome, 26 January 1862

It was with the zeal of a missionary that Franz Liszt championed the music of an earlier generation, and above all that of Beethoven, whose works he included in his concert programmes and on whose behalf he worked over the years for commemorative monuments in Bonn and in Vienna. In a letter of 1865 he condemns in particular the attitudes in Paris, where ‘sots et pitoyables jugements’ are expressed about the Ninth Symphony and where there has been evident reluctance to accept Beethoven, even after the changes of 1848. Born at Raiding, in Hungary, in 1811, the son of Adam Liszt, a steward in the service of Haydn’s former patrons, the Esterházy Princes, Franz Liszt had early encouragement from members of the Hungarian nobility, allowing him in 1822 to move to Vienna, for lessons with Czerny and a famous meeting with Beethoven, who was said, in spite of his profound deafness, to have applauded the boy’s performance and kissed him, the so-called Weihekuss, that seemed to proclaim him as Beethoven’s heir. From Vienna Liszt moved to Paris, where Cherubini refused him admission to the Conservatoire. Nevertheless he was able to impress audiences by his performance, now supported by the Erard family, piano manufacturers whose wares he was able to advertise in the concert tours on which he embarked. In 1827 Adam Liszt died, and Franz Liszt was now joined again by his mother in Paris, while using his time to teach, to read and benefit from the intellectual society with which he came into contact. His interest in virtuoso performance was renewed when he heard the great violinist Paganini, whose technical accomplishments he now set out to emulate.

The years that followed brought a series of compositions, including transcriptions of songs and operatic fantasies, part of the stock-in-trade of a virtuoso. Liszt’s relationship with a married woman, the Comtesse Marie d’Agoult, led to his departure from Paris for years of travel abroad, first to Switzerland, then back to Paris, before leaving for Italy, Vienna and Hungary. By 1844 his relationship with his mistress, the mother of his three children, was at an end, but his concert activities continued until 1847, the year in which his association began with Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, a Polish heiress, the estranged wife of a Russian prince. The following year he settled with her in Weimar, the city of Goethe, turning his attention now to the development of a newer form of orchestral music, the symphonic poem, and, as always, to the revision and publication of earlier compositions.

It was in 1861, at the age of fifty, that Liszt moved to Rome, following Princess Carolyne, who had settled there a year earlier. Divorce and annulment seemed to have opened the way to their marriage, but they now continued to live in separate apartments in the city. Liszt eventually took minor orders and developed a pattern of life that divided his time between Weimar, where he imparted advice to a younger generation, Rome, where he was able to pursue his religious interests, and Pest, where he returned now as a national hero. He died in 1886 in Bayreuth, where his daughter Cosima, widow of Richard Wagner, lived, concerned with the continued propagation of her husband’s music.

Whatever the accuracy of Liszt’s account, fifty years later, of his meeting with Beethoven in Vienna through the insistence of his then teacher, Czerny, he continued always to hold Beethoven in the greatest respect, a reverence reflected in his activities in the cause of the Beethoven Monuments in Bonn and Vienna and festivals of Beethoven’s music. Among particularly treasured possessions itemised in the will he made in 1860 were the death mask of Beethoven and the latter’s Broadwood piano, which after Liszt’s death was presented by Princess Carolyne and her daughter, Princess Hohenlohe, to the National Museum in Budapest.

In the summer of 1837, spent at the country house of George Sand at Nohant, Liszt, accompanied there by Marie d’Agoult, had worked on his piano transcriptions of Beethoven’s Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6, which were published, with a transcription of Symphony No. 7 in 1840. These early versions of Beethoven symphonies were later to be revised and supplemented by transcriptions of the six other symphonies, including, after some reluctance, the Choral Symphony. The single piano version of this last caused Liszt some trouble, in particular the last movement, which he tackled with some hesitation, eventually adding it in 1865, after the completion of the other transcriptions. He had already, in 1851, transcribed the Choral Symphony for two pianos, a version of the work that had won the approval of Clara Schumann and Brahms, when they played it through on the occasion of the latter’s 22nd birthday in 1855.

The transcription for two pianos, with its careful inclusion of original phrasing and occasional specification of the original instrumentation, avoids the obvious difficulties of a transcription for a single piano, partially solved there by the inclusion on extra staves of the choral parts of the last movement of the symphony. The twopiano version, as published, includes the words, printed in the score, and clarifies, as in the other Beethoven symphony transcriptions of Liszt, the part-writing and structure of one of the great monuments of Western music. In his modest preface to the later published transcriptions Liszt suggests that the poorest lithograph and the most incorrect translation still give a vague idea of the genius of Michelangelo, of Shakespeare, and that the piano, with its increased range, could largely reproduce all features, all combinations, all figurations of the most thorough and profound musical creations, lacking only the very great advantages of variety of tone colours: his aim had been to perform the function of an intelligent engraver or a conscientious translator, able to understand the spirit of a work and to promote wider knowledge of the great masters.

Keith Anderson

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