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Author Topic: Beethoven Symphonies - Which one would you play?  (Read 13444 times)
dnephi
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« on: October 06, 2007, 05:04:39 AM »

As many of you know, the Beethoven-Liszt Symphonies stand as arguably the greatest work of transcription ever completed.

Horowitz said that they were "the greatest piano pieces ever written." 

Now, if you were to play one, and only one- which one would it be?

Things to consider:

1. Length - How long will it take to perform/learn?
2. Difficulty - How much work & for how long would you need to work?
3. Suitability- How effectively is the music conveyed through the keyboard?

I look forward to hearing your responses.
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For us musicians, the music of Beethoven is the pillar of fire and cloud of mist which guided the Israelites through the desert.  (Roughly quoted, Franz Liszt.)

Sheet music to download and print: Beethoven Symphonies by Liszt
soliloquy
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« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2007, 06:34:42 AM »

Pastoral.
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mcgillcomposer
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« Reply #2 on: October 06, 2007, 08:20:50 AM »

As many of you know, the Beethoven-Liszt Symphonies stand as arguably the greatest work of transcription ever completed.

Horowitz said that they were "the greatest piano pieces ever written." 

Now, if you were to play one, and only one- which one would it be?

Things to consider:

1. Length - How long will it take to perform/learn?
2. Difficulty - How much work & for how long would you need to work?
3. Suitability- How effectively is the music conveyed through the keyboard?

I look forward to hearing your responses.

No. 2 - It is of moderate difficulty and length, probably performable in 1.5 months or so. There is some really nice counterpoint that is conveyed clearly and effectively through the keyboard. Also, the sound isn't as 'big' as some of the other symphonies (1, 3, 5, 9)  and, as such, is more easily conveyed on the keyboard. The 5th symphony often comes across as banging on the piano - even by a good pianist - the chords are so richly voiced...really more orchestrally than pianistically. It also has a rather bright key which complements its energetic character.
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thalbergmad
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« Reply #3 on: October 06, 2007, 03:35:11 PM »

Definately the 6th.

Thal
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richard black
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« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2007, 05:23:09 PM »

Quote
arguably the greatest work of transcription ever completed.

I would suggest that that title belongs to Karl Klindworth's transcription of Wagner's 'Ring'.
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dnephi
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« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2007, 06:08:52 PM »

I would suggest that that title belongs to Karl Klindworth's transcription of Wagner's 'Ring'.
I would contest that the quality of Klindworth's transcriptions does not approach that of Liszt's transcriptions.
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richard black
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« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2007, 06:45:22 PM »

Quote
I would contest that the quality of Klindworth's transcriptions does not approach that of Liszt's transcriptions.

They were of course intended as working scores rather than concert transcriptions, but if you have the originals of the Ring (not the simplified versions issued in about 1899) they are damn fine bits of piano writing.
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furtwaengler
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« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2007, 05:46:49 AM »

It's just my opinion that the Liszt-Beethoven Symphonies are very unpianistic...easily the most unpianistic thing he realized. I've often times played around with the 7th and it has reaped musical awards, but the scherzo and finale are quite imposing for these pianistic short comings.

I'd love to do the 3rd, but...here I may make my own transcription, for in Liszt's writing, as in many of the others, the Symphony simply does not translate well to the piano.

In a local second hand shop, I had seen for a number of months, a sealed copy of Katsaris's recordings of all the Symphonies for a very reasonable price. Every time I went in I thought of buying it, but instead walked out with other material. It has finally been purchased by someone else, but I do not find my procrastination troubling, even as I'm sure Katsaris would easily eclipse any other set...Why would I listen to Beethoven's Symphonies on the piano when I have recordings of Furtwänlger, Scherchen, Szell, Klemperer, Weingartner, Mengalberg, Asahina, Abravanel, Krips, Munch, Monteux, Kleiber, Koussevitzky, and others conducting fine orchestras in perfomances of far more expressive power? I use the Liszt transcriptions as a means for my own private access into this world without currently being a conductor and having access to an orchestra, and there is their merit.

I will be seeing Frederic Chiu perform the Beethoven-Liszt 5th Symphony in concert in a few days.
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dnephi
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« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2007, 11:52:48 AM »

I have heard a phenomenal recording of the fifth symphony performed by Joseph Villa, so I am at least sure it can sound the way it should.  I haven't even tried my hand on any of them, so I don't know how pianistic it is.  I had, rather, assumed that it was very pianistic, given the fact that it was Liszt transcribing it.


Katsaris' recordings are not very effective, in my opinion.  I do not recommend them.
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For us musicians, the music of Beethoven is the pillar of fire and cloud of mist which guided the Israelites through the desert.  (Roughly quoted, Franz Liszt.)
thalbergmad
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« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2007, 04:45:43 PM »

It's just my opinion that the Liszt-Beethoven Symphonies are very unpianistic...easily the most unpianistic thing he realized.

You heard the Bach/Liszt  Fantasy and Fugue?

Thal
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cygnusdei
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« Reply #10 on: October 08, 2007, 05:10:16 PM »

I find the Berlioz-Liszt transcription of Symphonie Fantastique surprisingly very pianistic. But I digress ....

For Beethoven-Liszt, I'd do the Ninth. Length is not an issue - who the hell would perform the entire work in public unless he/she is a pro? In which case you can get away with anything in your program anyway. I'd love to dabble in the first movement when I get a chance.

I have the Katsaris set, and he puts Gould and Badura-Skoda to shame in the Fifth.
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opus57
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« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2007, 08:30:20 PM »

I'm definitely not a pro, but I looked once at the symphonies (not with the intent to play them bt I looked at them) and I had the impression, that the fifth is the most suitable for piano... but: I'm a beginner.
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liszt1022
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« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2007, 01:50:17 AM »

I'm a nut for Beethoven symphonies on piano. I have all the Liszt arrangements in the Dover books and all the Singer arrangements in the Schirmer books. CD-wise I have Gould's 5 and 6, all of Howard's, all of Katsaris, and all of Scherbakov. I have different favorites for different ones, but Scherbakov's 6th is the best of all of them.
Personally I'd want to play the 6th since I think it translates best, but I think I'd have to trim Liszt's writing a little, sometimes it's too dense for its own good.
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mcgillcomposer
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« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2007, 07:05:49 AM »

I know that the Beethoven-Liszt symphonies are difficult, but I think it's going too far to call them 'unpianistic'. In fact, I think his solutions are incredibly idiomatic for the piano. Of course, due to the sheer range of an orchestra, some of the leaps and stretches are very wide - but either a large hand or proper use of the pedal can remedy this small problem.
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soliloquy
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« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2007, 07:37:04 PM »

I know that the Beethoven-Liszt symphonies are difficult, but I think it's going too far to call them 'unpianistic'. In fact, I think his solutions are incredibly idiomatic for the piano. Of course, due to the sheer range of an orchestra, some of the leaps and stretches are very wide - but either a large hand or proper use of the pedal can remedy this small problem.

They are unpianistic in the same way that Schumann's music is unpianistic.  They are technically clumsy, dense and chord patterns do not lie easily beneath the hands.


Either way No. 6 is my favorite.
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mcgillcomposer
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« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2007, 02:39:40 AM »

They are unpianistic in the same way that Schumann's music is unpianistic.  They are technically clumsy, dense and chord patterns do not lie easily beneath the hands.


Either way No. 6 is my favorite.
I bet Liszt didn't find them technically clumsy - he probably ripped them off like lightning - but I guess we aren't all Franz Liszt's lol...alas...
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« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2007, 02:56:51 AM »

i have the 'andante' of beethoven's symphony #5 in my new (old) symphonic organ works book.  i found it at an antique bookstore.  the beethoven sketchbooks (edited by m.g. nottebohm) seem to have everything there that one needs for this andante at least.  *am wondering about the rest.  i guess if liszt did all the work that he did - there's not a lot of need to set out to do this from scratch again. 

symphonic works in duet form could prove more 'flowing.'  a lot of these seem sorta 'chunk chunk.'  btw, they sound really great on the organ if played by one person.  more effects available. 
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justinjalandoni
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« Reply #17 on: June 15, 2008, 01:27:36 PM »

Symphony No.7. It's my favorite
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piano_ant
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« Reply #18 on: June 15, 2008, 02:01:27 PM »

I love no. 6, but I bet the seventh would be the best one to play. I love the seventh so much, it would be so rewarding to play it. Even the third is cool, but the ninth seems like it would be too difficult to even enjoy playing.... Tongue
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general disarray
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« Reply #19 on: June 16, 2008, 07:11:44 PM »

I've done the four-hand version (one piano) but my ancient score doesn't even indicate the transcriber.  Could it be Liszt?

Well, I've done Five, Six, Seven and last movt of the Ninth.

You gotta be high to play these babies, though.

Fun!
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« Reply #20 on: July 27, 2008, 06:18:24 PM »

Pastoral.

I recently bought the C.F. Peters edition of Beethoven Symphonies 6-9, edited by Otto Singer, largely for the 6th.

I'm not  super familiar with the symphony, but the only movement that really wowed me was the 1st.  The rest of the movements I'd sort of zone out and lose focus when listening (usually in my car).   In fact, that happened to me with the second part of the 1st movement also.  My mind would start to wander, after being enthralled by the first half.  After playing it, I realized why.

The exposition is great.  It works musically, the great theme is there.
The development, though, is surprisingly bland.  It is very repetitious, playing the same motives over and over again.  I was surprised by how repetitious it was.  Now, I know this is supposed to represent Beethoven's unwinding while going into the woods and getting away from the stress of civilization, but that doesn't make it musically interesting, at least to me.   On the plus side, if you need to practice your eighth and sixteenth notes over triplets, this is a great piece for that, because it repeats the same eighth and sixteenth patterns over triplets, using the same notes, over and over and over again.

I could live with the development being repetitious, if the recapitulation was as good as the exposition.  But it too is repetitious, and the main theme makes a disappointingly very brief return; with most of it, like the development, based on endless repetitions of transition material.   So that's when I realized why the 1st movement seemed to jump the shark for me when listening about half way through.  The recapitulation barely brings back the main theme at all, which is what my mind has been subconsciously waiting to hear for several minutes.

Overall, I found myself somewhat disappointed in it.  If I played it in public, I'd be tempted to play the expostiion, and dump the rest, so as not to bore people.

The only other movement I played through was the Scherzo from the 9th, but that was quite a bit more difficult then the 6th, 1st mv, which is fairly easy, and it would take me quite a bit more work to get it to sound right.

The only other Beethoven Symphony I've played through is the first three movements of the Fifth, an edition of which I've had for some years, (the fourth movement I don't particularly care for, so I've never played it much).   Those pieces all work fairly well as piano pieces, and the 1st movement in particular I found surprisingly pianistic and easier to play then it looked, though the 2nd and 3rd movements are  harder.

The only other symphony movements I've played are by Mozart, the 1st and 3rd movements of his 40th, the pieces being in separate compilations.  These both work well and are reasonably playable as piano pieces. 
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