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Transfigured Beethoven - Transcriptions By Heller, Friedman, Etc / Petronel Malan

Release Date: 02/10/2009 
Label:  Hänssler Classic   Catalog #: 98286   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Stephen HellerGiovanni SgambatiFrederic KalkbrennerIsidor Seiss,   ... 
Performer:  Petronel Malan
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

TRANSFIGURED BEETHOVEN Petronel Malan (pn) HÄNSSLER 98.286 (78: 32)

HELLER 33 Variations on a Theme by Beethoven. SGAMBATI Minuetto von Beethoven. KALKBRENNER Fantasia for the Piano after Beethoven’s Celebrated Waltz, op. 118. SEISS German Dances. Read more class="COMPOSER12">RAFF Romance No. 1 after Beethoven’s op. 40/1. TAUSSIG Transcriptions from Beethoven’s op. 59 and op. 130. FRIEDMAN Ecossaises after Beethoven

The young South African pianist Petronel Malan is an exciting player; her Blüthner, with its rich, singing tone and glittery high register, is beautifully recorded, and I like the program concept very much. “Transfigured Beethoven” follows Malan’s earlier Hänssler recordings of 19th- and 20th-century transcriptions, arrangements and works inspired by Bach and Mozart, “Transfigured Bach” and “Transfigured Mozart.” If she were to follow up with “Transfigured Schubert” with music by Liszt, Rachmaninoff, and Godowsky (which she probably wouldn’t since her imaginative programming looks beyond the usual suspects), Malan would invite direct comparison with the great Marc-André Hamelin, whose playing hers resembles. That is to say, it is full of color, energy, variety of touch, and the feeling of spontaneity, yet elegant and informed by good taste.

Her program maintains a balance between works of real substance and relative fluff. The opening set of 33 Variations by Stephen Heller is a major work by a composer best known for his miniature, Schumannesque piano etudes for students. This is a large-scale, free-spirited, and entirely unacademic piece with big technical demands. Based on Beethoven’s 32 Variations in C Minor, WoO 80, it begins with a statement of Beethoven’s short, passacaglia-like theme. Subsequent variations occasionally make reference to Beethoven’s original set, and there are clever references to various other Beethoven works in C Minor: the Fifth Symphony, and the Piano Trio, op. 1/3, as well as a nod to the opening of the Ninth Symphony. It would be fascinating to hear the original Beethoven variations followed by Heller’s set, perhaps comprising the first half of a recital program by Petronel Malan.

Giovanni Sgambati’s Minuetto is based on the playful third movement from Beethoven’s String Trio, op. 3, and Malan plays it in the spirit of its being a Romantic transcription with far more exaggerated rubato than a string trio would use in the original.

Joachim Raff is represented by his adaptation of the Romance in G for violin and orchestra. Complementing these more relaxed pieces are virtuosic works by Kalkbrenner, Ignaz Friedman, and the little-known Isidor Seiss (1840–1905), a Cologne pedagogue.

I am familiar with the piece used by Kalkbrenner in his Fantasia as a well-known waltz in A? by Schubert (D 365/op. 9/2), but the liner notes say that it is listed in the Kinsky catalog of Beethoven’s unpublished works as the Sehnsucht-waltz , WoO 14/1. I have also seen the Kalkbrenner listed elsewhere as the Fantasia for Piano on Diabelli’s Waltz ! Not that it’s terribly important, but my guess is that the waltz may have been a popular tune published by Diabelli, by neither Beethoven nor Schubert, but appropriated by both composers. In any case, Kalkbrenner’s Fantasia is really an elaborate set of variations that foreshadow some of the techniques that Schumann used in his “Abegg” Variations and Malan plays them dazzlingly.

The other major offering, besides the Heller variations, is a series of four transcriptions of movements from Beethoven’s string quartets by the short-lived Carl Taussig (1841–1871) whom Liszt considered to be his greatest pupil. Three of these are among Beethoven’s most sublime slow movements—from the first and third “Razumovsky” quartets, and the Cavatine from op. 130— and it is fascinating to hear them in these very faithful, unsimplified keyboard transcriptions. (The fourth is the quirky Allegretto movement from the second “Razumovsky” quartet, which sounds truly difficult to play.) All but the Heller and Sgambati are world premiere recordings. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Paul Orgel
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Works on This Recording

Variations (33) über ein Theme von Beethoven, Op. 130 by Stephen Heller
Performer:  Petronel Malan (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: by 1871 
Minuetto von Beethoven by Giovanni Sgambati
Performer:  Petronel Malan (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: Italy 
Fantasia for Piano on Diabelli's Waltz, Op. 118 by Frederic Kalkbrenner
Performer:  Petronel Malan (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
German Dances by Isidor Seiss
Performer:  Petronel Malan (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Romance no 1 for Piano after Beethoven's Op. 40 no 1 by Joachim Raff
Performer:  Petronel Malan (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Transcriptions from Beethoven's Op. 59 and Op. 130 for Piano by Carl Tausig
Performer:  Petronel Malan (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Ecossaises after Beethoven for Piano by Ignaz Friedman
Performer:  Petronel Malan (Piano)
Period: Romantic 

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