Franz Liszt (1811-1886): Piano Music, Vol. 15
Piano Transcriptions of Beethoven's Symphonies(S464/R128)
Symphony No.2 in D Major, Op. 36 .Symphony No.5 in Cminor, Op. 67
For us musicians, Beethoven's work is like the pillarof cloud and fire which guided the Israelites through the desert - a pillar ofcloud to guide us by day, a pillar of fire to guide us by night, "so thatwe may progress both day and night."
Franz Liszt, 2nd December, 1852,
letter sentfrom Weimar to Imperial Russian Councillor of State,
writer onmusic and Beethoven specialist,
Wilhelmvon Lenz in St Petersburg.
There are varied legends about Liszt's meeting with Beethoven.
Separating fact from fiction, what we know is that he met Beethoven in Vienna,a day or two before Liszt's concert at the small Imperial Redoutensaal on Sunday, 13th April, 1823. The legend tells us that Beethoven attended the concert, at the conclusionof which, he stepped to the platform, and warmly embracing the eleven-year-old,bestowed on him the so-called Weihekuβ or kiss of consecration,wishing the boy health, happiness and success The supposed event was givenfurther substance in a lithograph of 1873 by Istvan Halasz. We now know that nosuch public display ever took place.
Beethoven's hearing loss continued slowly but steadilyuntil the age of 52, in 1822, when for all practical purposes he was totallydeaf. In that year he was forced to abandon an attempt to conduct his opera FidelioBy the time he met Liszt, his deafness had become profound Despite this, hecontinued to use ear trumpets and a wooden 'drumstick' applied to his teeth toaid his hearing In 1823, moreover, Beethoven developed a prolonged, painfulophthalmic complaint which lasted from April to the following January; photophobia(an abnormal sensitivity or intolerance to light) was apparently the mostprominent symptom It seems unlikely, therefore, that Beethoven would have attendeda concert, and even less likely that he would have approached the performer orcreated a public spectacle with the so-called Weihekuβ.
According to Beethoven's Conversation Books, it appearsthat Liszt visited Beethoven the day before the concert, in order to ask himfor a theme, in a sealed envelope, on which he could improvise at his concert Beethovendid not provide the requested theme. Many years later, in 1875, Liszt gave thefollowing oral account (printed in many sources on Beethoven and Liszt; thisEnglish version is from Paul Nettl's Beethoven Encyclopedia) to hispupil Ilka Horowitz-
Barnay, of his only meeting with Beethoven: 'I was abouteleven years of age when my venerated teacher Czerny took me to Beethoven. Hehad told the latter about me a long time before, and had begged him to listento me play some time. Yet Beethoven had such a repugnance to infant prodigiesthat he had always violently objected to receiving me. Finally, however, he allowedhimself to be persuaded by the indefatigable Czerny, and in the end criedimpatiently. "In God's name, then, bring me the young Turk!" It wasten o'clock in the morning when we entered the two small rooms in the Schwarzspanierhaus[Liszt made a mistake in the address, since in April 1823 Beethoven was living atOberepfarrgasse 60, Kothgasse] which Beethoven occupied; I somewhat shyly, Czernyamiably encouraging me. Beethoven was working at a long, narrow table by thewindow. He looked gloomily at us for a time, said a few brief words to Czernyand remained silent when my kind teacher beckoned me to the piano. I firstplayed a short piece by Ries. When I had finished Beethoven asked me whether Icould play a Bach fugue. I chose the C minor Fugue from the Well TemperedClavier. "And could you also transpose the Fugue at once into anotherkey?" Beethoven asked me.
Fortunately I was able to do so. After my closing chord Iglanced up. The great Master's darkly glowing gaze lay piercingly upon me. Yetsuddenly a gentle smile passed over the gloomy features, and Beethoven came quiteclose to me, stooped down, put his hand on my head, and stroked my hair severaltimes." A devil of a fellow," he whispered, "a regular youngTurk!" Suddenly I felt quite brave. "May I play something of yoursnow?" I boldly asked. Beethoven smiled and nodded. I played the firstmovement of the C major Concerto. When I had concluded Beethoven caught hold ofme with both hands, kissed me on the forehead and said gently. "Go! Youare one of the fortunate ones! For you will give joy and happiness to manyother people! There is nothing better or finer!".' Liszt told the precedingin a tone of deepest emotion, with tears in his eyes, and a warm note ofhappiness sounded in the simple tale. For a brief space he was silent and then said.
'This event in my life has remained my greatest pride - the palladium of mywhole career as an artist I tell it but very seldom and - only to goodfriends!'
Certainly, Beethoven occupied a very important place inLiszt's life When Beethoven's Broadwood piano was sold after his death, it wasbought by the Viennese music publisher, Carl Anton Spina, for 181 florins.
Spina gave the piano to Liszt in whose house at Weimar it was until his death.
In 1887, Princess Marie Hohenlohe, daughter of Liszt's friend, the Princess Sayn-Wittgenstein,presented it to the National Museum in Budapest.
Liszt spent several months during the summer of 1837 atGeorge Sand's Chateau Nohant with the Comtesse Marie d' Agoult, whom he hadfirst met in 1833. She was six years his senior and married to General Charlesd' Agoult. In 1835 she left her husband and followed Liszt to Switzerland.
Their sensational relationship lasted ten years and produced three children,including Wagner's second wife, Cosima. It was during the summer of 1837 thatLiszt worked intensively on his first piano transcriptions of Beethoven'ssymphonies. Symphonies Nos. 5 and 6 were published in 1840 byBreitkopf & Hartel with a dedication to the French painter and violinistJean Dominique Ingres. Symphony No.7 was also published in 1840, but byTobias Haslinger in Vienna. In a letter written to his publisher, Breitkopf& Hartel, Liszt refers to '... the Beethoven Symphonies, of which I have undertakenthe arrangement, or, more correctly speaking, the pianoforte score.
To tell the truth, this work has, nevertheless, cost me some trouble; whether Iam right or wrong, I think it sufficiently different from, not to saysuperior to, those of the same kind which have hitherto appeared. The recentpublication of the same Symphonies, arranged by Mr. Kalkbrenner, makesme anxious that mine should not remain any longer in a portfolio. I intend alsoto finger them carefully, which, in addition to the indication of the differentinstruments (which is important in this kind of work), will most certainly makethis edition much more complete.' These transcri