Review by: Jed Distler
Artistic Quality: 7
Sound Quality: 8
Complete recorded cycles of Liszt’s Beethoven symphony transcriptions began to appear in the 1980s, including one from Harmonia Mundi featuring different pianists, now repackaged for the Beethoven 250th anniversary year. It remains a mixed bag, performance-wise.
If Georges Pludermacher’s “Eroica” doesn’t match Cyprien Katsaris or Gabriele Baldocci for virtuosic flair, one must acknowledge his overall musicality and linear awareness. Symphonies 4 and 8 find Alain Planès at the top of his game, notably in the fleet and supple perpetual motion passagework throughout No. 4’s finale. Paul Badura-Skoda’s impressive dynamic range and full-bodied sonority compensates for occasionally awkward rhythmic adjustments throughout No. 5.
Michel Dalberto’s fluidity, expert pacing, and technical command do both Beethoven and Liszt full justice in No. 6; small wonder that William Barrington-Coupe later issued it under Joyce Hatto’s name! For the Ninth symphony, Harmonia Mundi opted for Liszt’s two-piano edition, where Planès and Pludermacher remain thoroughly competitive in regard to ensemble discipline and intelligent tempo choices. As for the remaining three works, Jean-Louis Haguenauer (Symphonies 1 and 2) and Jean-Claude Pennetier (No. 7) rarely rise above careful competency. Not essential nor unambiguously competitive, but the performances of the Third, Fourth, Sixth, and Ninth still wear well.
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Recording Details:Reference Recording: Beethoven/Liszt Symphonies: Katsaris (Warner Classics); Scherbakov (Naxos)
- Jean-Louis Haguenauer, Georges Pludermacher, Alain Planès, Paul Badura-Skoda, Michel Dalberto, Jean-Claude Pennetier (piano)
- Harmonia Mundi - 293119298