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Liszt: The Complete Symphonic Poems Transcribed For Piano Vol 1 / Marin

Release Date: 11/10/2009 
Label:  Toccata Classics   Catalog #: 35   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Franz Liszt
Performer:  Risto-Matti Marin
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

LISZT Les Préludes. Heroïde Funèbre. Die Ideale Risto-Matti Marin (pn) TOCCATA TOCC 0035 (65:13)

When Fanfare issued its first number in September 1977, far more of Liszt’s vast, labyrinthine catalog was terra incognita than was known or available, despite, then as now, the baneful repetition of his “greatest hits,” while devotees avidly awaited the appearance of rarities. Today, as Read more Leslie Howard records every alternative version, album leaf, and scrap of Nachlass —the musical remains (literally, “leftovers”)—Liszt is, for those with the appetite to follow him, a known quantity. Granted, there are top-drawer works still underexposed, but the lineaments are there , and the insatiable demand for 19th-century music, warhorses aside, is bringing us a new spate of rarities.

August Stradal was in attendance at the famed Weimar master classes during Liszt’s last two years, played often for Liszt (indicating a stellar level of approval), and accompanied Liszt as he shuttled between Weimar and Budapest, which is a fair indication that he was good company, for Liszt did not suffer fools gladly. In the upshot, as a transcriber, Stradal knew what he was about, some passing animadversions from Sorabji aside. Malcolm MacDonald’s detailed, page-turner liner essay indicates that Stradal’s transcriptions are both scrupulously accurate and strutted in vaulting virtuoso demands to carry over, with the fullest possible effect, the symphonic grandeurs of the originals and put them in the hands of pianists equal to them. Risto-Matti Marin is such a pianist. One marvels at the stamina that can keep such a plethora of detail in place with such relentless élan; at his narrative shaping, which can turn up an already withering heat, so to speak, at climactic moments; at his overarching persuasiveness. The longest and most discursive of Liszt’s symphonic poems, Die Ideale , for instance, playing just under half an hour—which had seemed a diffuse bore in its orchestral version—comes across here with a conviction and unflagging trajectory that holds one to the end, topping even a spanking performance by the Mangos sisters in Liszt’s piano duet transcription (Cedille 1001, Fanfare 20:6). On the other hand, as the 19th century and its characteristic range of emotions slips ever further away, Marin’s success in so richly animating these masterpieces also exposes them in a black-and-white glare in which Liszt’s occasional claptrap and rodomontade, on plenary display in, for instance, Les Préludes —memorably dismissed in its orchestral version as “tawdry” by Peter J. Rabinowitz—is mercilessly revealed. Thus, while interested to hear what Marin will do with the remaining symphonic poems, one looks forward to future issues with mixed emotions, or the apprehension that one’s habitual emotions may be trifled with and subject to revision. In quieter passages one is aware of large hall ambience, receding as the pace quickens and an immediate, detailed fullness blossoms. Disquiet aside, enthusiastically recommended.

FANFARE: Adrian Corleonis

In the mid-1970s several cycles of the Liszt Beethoven symphonies emerged including one from Cyprien Katsaris and another later from various pianists on Naxos. What Liszt did for Beethoven August Stradal did for Liszt's symphonic poems and two orchestral symphonies. Even so Stradal's were not the first. One of Liszt's other pupils Tausig transcribed twelve of the thirteen but the Czech Stradal was the first to apply the treatment to all thirteen. It was Liszt's habit to make transcriptions for two pianos from the versions Raff had orchestrated. He generally avoided transcription for solo piano though exceptionally he made such a version of Les Préludes. Stradal made virtuoso transcriptions which, according to the annotator, Malcolm Macdonald are marked up to show the original orchestration and in which Stradal took painstakingly inventive steps to reflect in his piano solutions. Stradal studied with Liszt and with Bruckner and wrote reminiscences of each.
This is the first Stradal-Liszt cycle. I expected it to be a curiosity only. In fact it is much better especially in the hands of Risto-Matti Marin who has no reservations about grandiloquence or sentiment. Les Préludes here has both sweetness and grandstanded grandeur aplenty. Héroïde Funèbre protests and rumbles deep in the de profundis realms of the keyboard with such gruff ruminations jostling with stern Finlandia-defiant rhetoric. Die Ideale again attends to the composer's halting accentuation, dramatisation and delicious sentimentalising.
Marin is in splendid form throughout and this can be borne out through listening to the lunar glow he lends the quiet piano chords within Die Ideale's first five minutes.
The commanding launch of an unlikely but more than merely meritorious endeavour for Marin to record the complete transcriptions. I suspect they are all already in the can. It's just a matter of money and release schedules. In any event this adds a munificent chapter to Liszt's complete solo piano works to place alongside the major cycles by Leslie Howard and Gunnar Johansen.
Toccata continue to challenge the listener who complains of the companies' failure to move away from crossover and the common repertoire rut. More please.
-- Rob Barnett, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Les préludes, S 97 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Risto-Matti Marin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1848/1854; Weimar, Germany 
Notes: Transcribed for solo piano by August Stradal. 
Héroďde funébre, S 102 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Risto-Matti Marin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1850/1854; Weimar, Germany 
Notes: Transcribed for solo piano by August Stradal. 
Die Ideale, S 106 by Franz Liszt
Performer:  Risto-Matti Marin (Piano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857; Weimar, Germany 
Notes: Transcribed for solo piano by August Stradal. 

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