Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1826) / Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Complete Symphonies - Volume 1
Symphony no.1 in C, op.21 (?1799), (transcr. for piano 1841), S.464/1
Symphony no.6 in F, op.68 (1808), (transcr. for piano 1837/1841),
Gabriele Baldocci (piano)
rec. Church of S Apollinare, Monticello di Lonigo, Italy, 1-2
February 2012. DDD
DYNAMIC CDS 731 [71:10]
Italian pianist Gabriele Baldocci is currently piano professor at Trinity
Conservatoire of Music and Dance in Greenwich, London. This release, with
he sets off on his complete recording of Liszt's celebrated transcriptions
Beethoven's Symphonies for Dynamic, coincides with the end of a successful
of Argentina playing duets with none other than Martha Argerich.
Liszt's transcriptions - which in fact hover somewhere between true
reproduction and arrangement - have been recorded several times before,
whether single Symphonies or whole cycles. Most infamous perhaps was the
cycle by Glenn Gould, so idiosyncratic a pianist that his renderings sound
like Beethoven arranged Liszt arranged Gould. In recent years, two fine
cycles have appeared on Naxos, by the scandalously underrated Turkish
pianist Idil Biret - available either on standard-issue CDs or part of their
Idil Biret Archive (8.506027 is the complete boxed set) - and by the
splendid Russian virtuoso Konstantin Scherbakov, likewise available
separately or in a boxed set (8.505219). Some collectors will be lucky
enough to own Leslie Howard's priceless 98-CD recording of Liszt's complete
piano music on Hyperion (review), which includes all his Beethoven
transcriptions, amounting to 8 discs. Earlier this year (2012), what
promises to be another outstanding cycle got under way: Russian pianist Yury
Martynov's for ZigZag (review).
Martynov began with Symphonies nos. 2 and 6. Baldocci is saving no.2
for volume 2, which will be heard alongside no.7. As regards the present
disc, Baldocci's Sixth is quite similar to Martynov's. Their timings are
almost identical, and Baldocci matches both Martynov's virtuosity to tackle
the phenomenal 'Storm' movement and his expressive maturity to put across
the serenity of the 'Scene beside the Stream' in a soul-satisfying manner.
Baldocci nevertheless takes an intellectual approach to his music,
researching the score in considerable depth to try to understand not just
Liszt, but Beethoven too. He and Martynov may both want to re-record these
works in a decade or two when they have studied, performed and listened to
both composers long enough to achieve that goal, but in the meantime, their
present recordings should entertain and satisfy in equal measure. In terms
of style there is not much between them, at least after a debut volume.
Retail pricing does little to separate them either, and in the end it may
come down to the fact that Martynov's 1837 Erard piano has a better sound.
Baldocci's will probably strike some as slightly harsh, not helped by a
fairly narrow stereo. His model, by the way, is a Borgato L282 (1991),
reputed to cost a quarter of a million dollars! The audio difference between
the recordings is not massive, however.
Robert Schumann's original reservations aside, critical opinion of
these transcriptions has nearly always been very favourable. Liszt naturally
held Beethoven in the highest esteem, and was very careful not to be seen
trying to 'improve' upon his hero's genius, eschewing gratuity and bravura
and going so far as to suggest fingerings to ensure clarity of parts. He
does omit bits of detail here and there where he knows the piano cannot do
justice to the layers of the orchestral original, yet most of the time his
solutions to the substantial timbral difficulties arising from the
transference of orchestra - especially Beethoven's - to piano range from the
inspired to the miraculous.
Dynamic's Italian-English booklet notes are no match for those that
came with the Martynov Zig-Zag disc, but are certainly adequate.
Collected reviews and contact at artmusicreviews.co.uk