Although Liszt's solo-piano arrangement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony certainly is a virtuosic tour-de-force, his two-piano transcription more successfully addresses the score's large dimensions in terms of textures, dynamics, color, and, in the finale, more audible distinction between choral and orchestral forces. Leon McCawley and Ashley Wass team up for its finest recording to date. Their headlong drive in the first movement evokes Toscanini's archetonic ferocity. The pianists underline harmonic clashes and contrapuntal felicities by way of color shifts, accentuation, and nuance rather than tempo fluctuation. The same goes for their soaring Scherzo (with both repeats intact), where the obsessive dotted rhythms are consistently supple andRead more accurate.
While the duo maintains rigorous tempo relationships over the Adagio's brisk course, they avoid rigidity by way of discreet rubatos and tasteful lyrical inflections. It is not easy for two-piano teams to sustain long, loud episodes without forcing tone or losing rhythmic steam, yet McCawley and Wass wield the proverbial iron hands in mink gloves in their tightly knit, unified Finale. The sonics are slightly too resonant and bass shy, but the instruments are as well matched and balanced as the pianists. I hope Naxos already has enlisted these artists for Liszt's two-piano version of A Faust Symphony. Highly recommended.