Beethoven (Transcribed by Liszt)

Symphonies Nos 4 and 5
Yury Martynov (piano)
Zig Zag Territoires
Catalogue Number:
ZZT 356
BBC Music Magazine
Beethoven (Transcribed by Liszt)

The Russian pianist Yury Martynov has nearly reached the end of his tremendously impressive survey of the Beethoven symphonies in the transcriptions by Liszt: only the Choral Symphony is still to come. Liszt’s keyboard versions of these familiar pieces manage miraculously to preserve not only virtually every note of the originals, but also all the music’s breadth and colours. In conveying those colours so skilfully, Martynov is helped by his subtle voicing of textures, and by the clarity of the mid-19th-century Blüthner piano he uses. When playing these pieces on the piano it’s possible to be a little more free and flexible in terms of tempo than an orchestra can easily manage, and in the opening movement of the Fifth Symphony (taken at a surprisingly swift basic speed), and the trio of the scherzo in No. 4, Martynov invokes some carefully thought-out rubato. In the latter, Liszt gives two alternative versions for the opening bars of the trio, and Martynov sensibly takes one the first time through, and the other for the repeat.

As for the playing, it is simply stunning: this is music that requires a virtuoso of the highest order, and it seems there’s no technical challenge it throws up that can daunt Martynov. Such pieces as the finale of the Fourth Symphony and the trio of the scherzo in the Fifth are real tours de force, and they have to be heard to be believed. No one interested in keyboard wizardry should miss this.

Misha Donat

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