Recorded on 09/14/2000, uploaded on 01/24/2010
Musician's or Publisher's Notes
achievements of Franz Liszt (1811-1866) as
a phenomenal pianist and groundbreaking composer often overshadow his
contribution to the art of transcription.
But it is this very combination of compositional ability and pianistic facility
which are responsible for Liszt's
supreme skill at adapting music for one medium to another; specifically,
arranging orchestral music for the piano.
Liszt's desire to arrange the symphonies of
Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) began around 1835; by 1837 he completed the
fifth, sixth, and seventh symphonies.
Like most of Liszt's
200 transcriptions for solo piano, his aim was to promote the music of the
composer whose work he arranged, and to show off his uncanny pianistic
abilities in the process. Liszt's preface to the published edition of
his arrangements gives a clear indication of the care and respect with which he
undertook the task:
name of Beethoven is sacred in art . . . I consider my
time well spent if I have succeeded in transferring to the piano not
only the grand outlines of Beethoven's compositions but also all those numerous fine details, and
smaller traits that so powerfully contribute
to the completion of the ensemble. My
aim has been attained if I stand on
a level with the intelligent engraver, the conscientious
translator, who comprehend the spirit of a work and thus contribute to the knowledge of the great masters
and to the formation of the
sense for the beautiful.
composed his seventh symphony in 1811-12. The work was premiered with great success in
December 1813 in the hall of the old Vienna Conservatory. Richard Wagner describe the symphony as the "apotheosis of the dance", due to each movement's obsessive treatment of a single
rhythmic idea: spritely dotted rhythms in the first movement (following a long
introduction), march rhythms in the somber, funereal second movement,
rapid-fire quarter notes in the scherzo (with trio based on an Austrian
song), and syncopation in the romping, elated finale. John Ferguson
Seventh Symphony was completed in 1812, four years after the Pastoral Symphony. During those four
years, Beethoven had been quite productive composing the string quartets in E
flat and F minor; the music for Egmont,
King Stephen, and the Ruins of Athens; the Choral Fantasy, the
musical predecessor of the Ninth Symphony; as well as many other works. The
Eighth Symphony followed immediate on the heels of the Seventh, appearing
within the same year.
performance of the Seventh Symphony, along with the "Battle Symphony," took
place on December 8th, 1813 at a benefit concert organized by
Maelzel for the soldiers wounded at the battle of Hanau where Austrian and
Bravarian troops attempted to cut off Napoleon's retreat from Leipzig.
Beethoven himself conducted this performance despite being nearly deaf by this
time. The concert, however, was a success. The famous Allegretto of the Seventh Symphony was encored and the entire
concert was repeated again only a few days later on the 12th, also
with great success.
Seventh Symphony immediately grew in popularity and is one Beethoven's most
often performed orchestral works. Beethoven himself thought the symphony "one
of my best works", even though it was extremely rare for him to look on any his
compositions with praise. Mendelssohn once exclaimed, "How the orchestra is
treated! What a sound it has!" Wagner called it the "apotheosis of the dance."
However, the symphony was not without its critics. Carl Maria von Weber, a
stern critic of Beethoven's work though somewhat hypocritical, after hearing
the Seventh Symphony, commented that Beethoven was "ripe for the madhouse."
Perhaps it is poetic justice then that Weber, when in London in 1826 to
premiere his Oberon, while conducting
a Philharmonic Concerto had to perform this very work.
No. 7 is another example of the ever expanding symphonic form at the hands of
Beethoven. The introduction to the first movement is expansive and carries far
more weight than the introductions to the First, Second and Fourth Symphonies.
In this regard, it reminds one of the introduction to Schubert's C major
Symphony. An Allegretto replaces the
usual Andante or Adagio movement so as not to disturb the abundant energy of the
work. The Scherzo's only equal among the preceding symphonies, in terms of
proportions, is that of the Fourth. The finale can only be described as the
first example of unbridled humor in Beethoven's symphonies-a personal
boisterousness without concern for the conventions of others. Beethoven himself
termed this manner "aufgeknöpft" for which the best English translation is
"unbuttoned." This humor would play a role in several of his later
compositions. Joseph DuBose
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