Idil Biret

Liszt: Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique (Piano Transcription)

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Franz Liszt's admiration of Hector Berlioz and enthusiasm for the Symphonie fantastique led to this spectacular 1833 transcription. To show how highly he regarded the composer and this piece, Liszt applied the same energy and attention to detail he devoted to his transcriptions of Beethoven's symphonies and published the arrangement at his own expense. Yet as far as Liszt's intentions were those of an enthusiast who sincerely wanted to spread his friend's innovative music far and wide, he did not forget to make it a splendid showpiece for his own use. Liszt's flamboyance is not as excessive as it is in later transcriptions, and the original music is kept largely intact. However, there are enough chromatic runs and stacked chords to demonstrate that this is a virtuoso's work and not merely a note-for-note reduction. Idil Biret gives a remarkably agile performance, and she is especially energetic in the fast movements. Her performance of "Un bal" is brisk and breathtaking. The only disappointment in her reading is the third movement, "Scène aux champs," which lacks coherence and, in comparison to the outer movements, is too bland to sustain interest. The recorded sound is generally good, though the piano's low register lacks full resonance.

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