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25.1.05

Dip Your Ears, No. 24

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L. v. Beethoven, Piano Sonata No. 29 (orch. Weingartner), Symphony #5, Prometheus Overture, Weingartner (Naxos 8.110913)
You may have heard Liszt's transcriptions of Beethoven symphonies. They are fine works and an interesting way to listen to all-too-familiar masterpieces. Their reason for existence was the spread of Beethoven's music when symphonic concerts were rare and out of the reach of most people – not to mention the unavailability of sound recordings. In this role reversal, Weingartner took the Hammerklavier sonata and orchestrated it during a time when recordings were still nascent and piano recitals sparse.

Though certainly symphonic in length, op. 106 does not seem to be particularly suited to such treatment, and the very notion defies all our sensibilities of Werktreue. Still, it's a curious and curious-making monument of Weingartner's admiration of Beethoven. I am not sure if it reveals much new about the work, and I am certain that it sounds better on the piano. Charles Rosen thought it "silly." The 1930s sound, remastered by Mark Obert-Thorn, is restricted and full of hiss (though listenable). The Prometheus Overture and 5th Symphony (1933) feature the LPO in a bad accoustic and are not even Weingartner's best recordings thereof. Still, it's "interesting" in the more flattering meaning of the word for hearing the Hammerklavier strung up... at least for the very, very curious of us.

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