Thursday, December 01, 2005

 

The Liszt Piano Transcription of the Beethoven Symphonies

The Preface (1865) by Liszt of his transcription for piano of the Beethoven Symphonies with English transcription by C.E.R. Mueller:

"The name of Beethoven is sacred in art. His symphonies are at present universally acknowledged to be master-pieces; whoever seriously wishes to extend his knowledge or new works can never devote too much reflection and study upon them. For this reason every way or manner of making them accessible and popular has a certain merit, nor are the rather numerous arrangements published so far without relative merit, though, for the most part, they seem to be of little intrinsic value for deeper research. The poorest lithograph, the most faulty translation always gives an idea, indefinite though it be, of the genius of Michel Angelo, of Shakespeare, in the most incomplete piano-arrangement we recognize here and there the perhaps half effaced traces of the master's inspiration. By the development in technique and mechanism which the piano has gained of late, it is possible now to attain more and better results than have been attained so far. With the immense development of its harmonic power the piano seeks to appropriate more and more all orchestral compositions. In the compass of its seven octaves it can, with but a few exceptions, reproduce all traits, all combinations, all figurations of the most learned, of the deepest tone-creations, and leaves to the orchestra no other advantages, than those of the variety of tone colors and massive effects---immense advantages, to be sure

Such has been my aim in the work I have undertaken and now lay before the musical world. I confess that I should have to consider it a rather useless employment of my time, if I had but added one more to the numerous hitherto published piano-arrangements, following in their rut; but I consider my time well employed if I have succeeded in transferring to the piano not only the grand outlines of Beethoven's compositions but also 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 conscious 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.

Rome, 1865 F. LISZT.

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