A New Beethoven/Liszt Cycle Takes Off

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 9

Franz Liszt’s solo piano transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies may not exactly be standard repertoire, yet more and more pianists are committing them to disc. Gabriele Baldocci’s superb performances of the First and Sixth augur well for his projected cycle of all nine. Although his care with voicings, balances, polyrhythms (notice the precise yet never rigid articulation of the “Pastoral” first movement’s constant two-against three patterns), and dynamics surely signify Baldocci’s knowledge of the orchestral originals, a high pianistic culture informs his tasteful rubatos and his elegant, lean, and well modulated sonority.

Among the most felicitous moments are the introduction to the First symphony’s finale, with its perfectly gauged upward scales and their effortless transition into the movement’s main theme; the same symphony’s animated yet gracefully shaped Andante; and the “Pastoral” storm’s careful textural delineation leading into a febrile climax. Baldocci also favors a slightly faster and more fluid basic tempo for the Andante molto mosso than either Leslie Howard or Cyprien Katsaris, while imbuing Beethoven’s bird-call imitations with more color and poetic fantasy. Aside from a wee bit of congestion in loud chordal passages, the Borgato grand piano is captured with attractive presence and naturalness. I look forward to following this cycle as it progresses.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: No. 1: Wild (Ivory Classics); No. 6: Katsaris (Warner Classics)

  • BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN:
    Symphony No. 1 in C major Op. 21; Symphony No. 6 in F major Op. 68 (“Pastoral”) arranged for piano by Franz Liszt

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