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Beethoven/Liszt Symphonies are Coming! - Liner Notes

These are the liner notes to the Centaur Records release of Beethoven/Liszt Symphonies V/VII, performed by Frederic Chiu, produced by Judith Sherman, multiple Grammy award-winning Producer of the Year.

The piano is one of the seminal inventions in human history, a platform for creativity and thinking that has endured more than 300 years. Continually evolving and refining with the advent of different technologies, the instrument is alive and well. Why?

The works on this recording are rich responses to that question. They demonstrate how the piano is at once simple and complex, how its palette is restricted and yet infinitely variegated within those restrictions, and how the act of playing or even listening to the piano is a deeply human activity that we rarely get to explore in other ways.

Franz Liszt understood these concepts, and he felt so inspired by them, he spent close to 2 years in a retreat at a monastery, devoting himself exclusively to arranging all 9 Symphonies of Beethoven for solo piano. His work left a legacy that has never been equaled in music history, creating something as close to an actual recording of Beethoven as one could wish for without the technology being available.

Liszt’s familiarity specifically with the Seventh and Fifth Symphonies stems from many perspectives. Besides his personal encounter with Beethoven the man (Beethoven’s apocryphal “kiss” on Liszt the child’s forehead), he was present in the audience for important live performances of the Symphonies by Beethoven’s collaborators and contemporaries, hearing performance practices that came straight from Beethoven’s direction.

Liszt’s perspective as a composer pushed him to study Beethoven’s craft as a model for his own compositions. And being a performer himself, he also could deeply appreciate the pianistic and executional details needed to transmit the musical thoughts to an audience. (In fact, many of Liszt’s audiences were hearing these two Beethoven Symphonies for the first time, played not by an orchestra but rather in these piano transcriptions performed by Liszt!)

Finally, as a court conductor in Weimar, he had the opportunity to deconstruct and perform these works with an orchestra. Liszt’s piano scores must therefore be taken as a sort of gospel in regards to Beethoven’s intentions with the Symphonies.<