As in all fields of human activity, also in music, and in music teaching, commonplaces have their role. And, as in all fields, they do contain some truth, and more than a little truth. One of the things virtually every piano teacher tells his or her students at their first approach to a Beethoven Sonata is: “Think orchestrally”! Indeed, many mentors suggest that the right inspiration for a Mozart Sonata will come from operatic singing, that for a Schubert Sonata from Lied singing, and that for Beethoven Sonatas from orchestral timbres. Some teachers even suggest that the pupil attempt a kind of orchestration of the Sonata he or she is studying, in order to develop the timbral imagination and the spatiality of sound which are needed for a proper interpretation of a Beethoven Sonata.
And it is true that this kind of imagination, once ignited, seems to move as if by itself. Even though two different pianists will probably imagine two different “orchestrations” for the same Beethoven Sonata, few will renounce thinking of a bass line as played by a bassoon or of a series of staccato chords as entrusted to the woodwind section.
Beethoven’s thought, in short, is orchestral through and through; and whilst his piano writing demonstrates his own complete mastery of keyboard technique and his skill as a pianist, a common feeling when playing Beethoven’s piano works is to long for the orchestra’s multifaceted timbres.
In his Symphonies, Beethoven explored the possibilities of orchestral writing as perhaps no other composer had done before him; and this is all the more surprising if one considers that his greatest Symphonies were written when he could hear only very little, or not at all.
Undeniably, therefore, if Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas “long” for the orchestra, his orchestral works find their ideal representation in the sound medium for which they were originally conceived. However, prior to the advent of recording, it was by no means common to hear a live performance of all Beethoven symphonies on the concert stage. And since they had quickly become the paradigm of orchestral writing and of the management of Sonata forms, it was crucial – especially for prospective conductors and composers – to familiarise themselves thoroughly with these masterpieces. But, of course, even accomplished musicians and performers had to constantly return to these scores, and hearing them was no less important than observing them.
Reductions for two pianos, or for four-hand piano duet did exist; however, their quality did not correspond to that of the original. As Franz Liszt observed, “The poorest lithograph, the faultiest translation can still give a vague idea of the genius of the Michelangelos and the Shakespeares. In the most incomplete piano reduction, one may find here and there half-erased traces of the inspiration of the masters”. Which is like saying that in spite of the transcription, something of Beethoven’s genius remained available.
Franz Liszt probably employed such transcriptions as a means for his own study and for teaching, and it is likely that this experience motivated him to try his hand at producing something better. Along with his many other feats as a composer in his own right, as the most astonishing piano virtuoso of all times, and as a revered teacher, Liszt was also one of the most brilliant transcribers and arrangers ever. Transcriptions, paraphrases and arrangements were among his battle horses (as they were for many other, much less talented, musicians of his time); they were sure to catch the audience’s favour, as their musical material was already known (and therefore unlikely to frighten or trouble the less refined palates), and they allowed the performer to display his virtuosity to the utmost.
Moreover, Liszt had personally known Beethoven. How intimately, nobody knows. Liszt frequently related his encounter with the Maestro, which allegedly happened when Liszt was twelve and Beethoven already deaf. However, Liszt had been introduced to Beethoven by Carl Czerny, who was Beethoven’s student and Liszt’s teacher, and Beethoven (so the legend has it) warmly encouraged the boy, giving him a “consecration kiss” which Liszt fondly remembered for his entire life.
Even though this kiss may be meaningful more on the symbolic than on the artistic plane, doubtlessly Liszt received from Czerny’s hands some details about the “proper” performance of Beethoven’s works. Czerny did write a book on this, and it corresponds to his instructive editions of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, where Czerny similarly claims to be handing down the “proper” performance of Bach as he had received it from Bach’s sons and students. Czerny was a firm believer in the rule of interpretive tradition and of teacher-to-pupil transmission of the performance details.
Thus, it is highly likely that Liszt’s transcriptions of Beethoven’s Symphonies do include valuable details about their original performance; and, of course, Liszt had also his own experience as a conductor on which he could rely. In fact, Liszt was also one of the greatest conductors of his time and developed many unique insights on conducting technique, while tirelessly championing the performance of Beethoven’s symphonic and solo works for his entire life.
One has good reason, therefore, to expect wonders from Liszt’s transcriptions of Beethoven’s Symphonies, and wonders they are. As Liszt himself acknowledged in his preface to the publication of the complete Symphonies (in 1865), what had been impossible to musicians of the preceding generation was becoming possible thanks to the improvements in piano mechanics, range, and sound. “Thanks to the untold development of its harmonic power, the piano tends increasingly to assimilate all the orchestral repertoire. In the compass of its seven octaves, it can produce, with only a few exceptions, all the characteristics, all the combinations, all the most learned compositional figures, and leaves the orchestra no other advantages than those (admittedly immense) of diversity of timbre and massed effects”. Liszt is very frank and also rather humble here: he likens his task to that of “the intelligent engraver” or of the “conscientious translator, who grasp the spirit of a work along with the letter, and thereby help to propagate knowledge of the masters and the appreciation of the beautiful”. For indeed his ultimate aim, in all likelihood, was not that of providing new works for the concert stage (we do not know about any public performance of these transcriptions by Liszt himself, though, for instance, Liszt and Bülow did play in a semi-public context the two-piano version recorded here). Rather, he zealously wished to disseminate Beethoven’s Symphonies and the beauty they conveyed.
In 1833, in his early twenties, Liszt had produced an impressive transcription of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique. Shortly after, he began to think about a transcription of Beethoven’s Symphonies. He began producing actual transcriptions in 1837, starting with two of the most beloved among the Nine – i.e. the Fifth and the Sixth. The following year, the Seventh was approached and transcribed. Should Liszt have kept this pace, we could imagine the complete cycle to be finished by the early 1840s. But this was not to happen. In 1840, he did proceed to publication, but only of these three central works; he dedicated them to Ingres, the painter, with whom Liszt had played the Violin Sonatas by Beethoven during their stay in Rome the year before. Liszt then transcribed and published his arrangement of the Funeral March from the Heroic Symphony (no. 3), and left the remaining works aside. Only in 1863-4, during another, long stay in Rome, where Liszt lived a monk’s life at Monte Mario, did he resume the task, tackling the six symphonies which still awaited transcription.
But the Ninth was and remained highly problematic. In all of his transcriptions, Liszt had sought (and managed to find) a pianistic idiom which faithfully respected the notes, the texture, and the sonority of Beethoven’s original. But how could this be accomplished with the Ode to Joy? Could a movement so bound to its lyrics be deprived of them? Could Beethoven’s revolutionary idea to couple singing with orchestra be simply abandoned?
Indeed, Liszt could think that nothing could be demanded of him: already in 1851, he had realized the transcription recorded here, where the thick texture and extremely complex polyphony of Beethoven’s original are entrusted to the joint forces of two pianos and two pianists. Still, the publisher insisted, and Liszt did try. Untypically for him, however, he had to admit himself defeated by the Symphony’s Finale, which seemed to resist all attempts to transcription. Again did the publisher come to the attack, and in the end Liszt did complete the cycle, dedicating him to Hans von Bülow, his former pupil and son-in-law.
There exist, therefore, two versions of Liszt’s “Ninth”, one for two pianos and one for solo piano. Moreover, at times both versions are presented with singing; or, in the case of the solo piano version, some performers decide to incorporate fragments from the vocal part into the piano texture. It can be said, therefore, that these versions are “open works”, in a concept of art which we erroneously associate with the twentieth century, but which actually was much more common in earlier periods.
The transcription recorded here, therefore, represents a variety of meanings and opportunities for today’s listeners: an aural “glimpse” into the early performing practices and traditions of Beethoven’s Symphonies as transmitted by one who knew the composer; a possibility to savour the bare lines of Beethoven’s compositional imagination, but with the gorgeous piano writing of the quintessential pianist; a challenge allowing one of the best known musical works of all times to shine as if freshly composed; and, above all, an experience of pure aesthetical and musical delight.
Chiara Bertoglio © 2022
Fabiano Casanova: "A great talent with a strong artistic and magneticpersonality through which he can deeply communicate his extraordinary passion and his rich inner life."
So the Russian composer R.Shchedrin defines the pianist Fabiano Casanova after his playing of some of his compositions.
His concert career takes him to play as a soloist in Italy and abroad, playing for major concert societies and in important halls such as: " Società dei Concerti" in Milan”, Concert Season of the Symphony Orchestra of Rome , "Società del Quartetto" in Bergamo , Chamber Season of " Teatro Dal Verme " in Milan, Kolarac Foundation Hall of Belgrade, Rohm Music Foundation Hall of Kyoto, Fukuoka Airef Hall, Seymour Theatre Centre in Sydney, Grünewaldsalen in Stockholm, Saint Martin in the Fields in London, just to name a few.
His repertoire ranges from baroque to the contemporary pages of C.Vine, G.Ligeti and R.Shchedrin.
As a soloist, he performed with Orchestra Sinfonica of Roma and Roma Tre Orchestra.
Chamber music has a very important role in his concert activity: he's shared the stages with leading musicians like Boris Baraz, Igor Volochine, Alexander Chaushian and Diemut Poppen.
Charismatic and refined Piano Professor, he's often invited to give masterclasses in Italy and abroad, and as juror in many competitions.
Motterle, Massimiliano (Pianist) formed under the guidance of Sergio Marengoni and graduated at Milan Conservatoire “Giuseppe Verdi” summa cum laude and with special mention, then completed his artistic formation with internationally renowned teachers and pianists such as Franco Scala, Lazar Berman, Paul Badura-Skoda e Alexis Weissenberg.
He won 21 National and International Competitions, including the International Competition in Parma where he was also received the Jury’s Special Award for the best performance of the Liszt sonata. He was a finalist in the Valencia Josè Iturbi Competition, won 3rd Prize (no 1st price was awarded) in the prestigious Franz Liszt Competition in Buda-pest and in the International Competition in Cincinnati-Ohio.
In 1994 he debuted at Sala Verdi in Milan performing Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto with the Milan RAI Orchestra directed by Daniele Callegari and, in the same prestigious Sala, he was chosen to play the piano belonging to Vladimir Horowitz.
In 2004 he performed Liszt’s 12 Transcendent Studies for the Concert Society, he was also invited to perform both Liszt’s Malediction at the Great Concert Hall in Budapest with the Liszt Chamber Orchestra and Totentanz with the Hungarian Matav Symphony Orchestra in the prestigious Liszt Academy Hall.
He held concerts all over the world: in Austria, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Hungary, Taiwan, Oman and the United States, performing with prestigious international orchestras such as the Liszt Chamber Orchestra, the Hungarian Matav Symphony Orchestra, the Valencia Orchestra, the RAI Symphony Orchestra and the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra under important conductors such as Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli, Piercarlo Orizio, Andras Ligeti, Riccardo Frizza, Jonathan Webb and Neil Gittleman.
He actively collaborated with various artists such as Andreas Brantelid, Karin Dornbusch, Elisa Citterio, the Scala String Quartet and, since 2007, he has been collaborating with violinist Fulvio Luciani with whom he recorded for Naxos and performed Beethoven’s piano and violin integral sonatas for the international TV channel Classica HD.
He held various seminars and masterclasses in Italy, in Taiwan and in the U.S.
He currently teaches piano at the Conservatory “G.Donizetti” in Bergamo and is the Artistic Director of GIA, the historical music association of Brescia, and of festivals such as “Onde Musicali” and “Iseo Classica”.
Franz Liszt: (b Raiding, (Doborján), 22 Oct 1811; d Bayreuth, 31 July 1886). Hungarian composer, pianist and teacher. He was one of the leaders of the Romantic movement in music. In his compositions he developed new methods, both imaginative and technical, which left their mark upon his forward-looking contemporaries and anticipated some 20th-century ideas and procedures; he also evolved the method of ‘transformation of themes’ as part of his revolution in form, made radical experiments in harmony and invented the symphonic poem for orchestra. As the greatest piano virtuoso of his time, he used his sensational technique and captivating concert personality not only for personal effect but to spread, through his transcriptions, knowledge of other composers’ music. As a conductor and teacher, especially at Weimar, he made himself the most influential figure of the New German School dedicated to progress in music. His unremitting championship of Wagner and Berlioz helped these composers achieve a wider European fame. Equally important was his unrivalled commitment to preserving and promoting the best of the past, including Bach, Handel, Schubert, Weber and above all Beethoven; his performances of such works as Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and Hammerklavier Sonata created new audiences for music hitherto regarded as incomprehensible. The seeming contradictions in his personal life – a strong religious impulse mingled with a love of worldly sensation – were resolved by him with difficulty. Yet the vast amount of new biographical information makes the unthinking view of him as ‘half gypsy, half priest’ impossible to sustain. He contained in his character more of the ideals and aspirations of the 19th century than any other major musician.
Profile from The New Grove dictionary of Music and Musicians
Ludwig van Beethoven: (b Bonn, bap. 17 Dec 1770; d Vienna, 26 March 1827). German composer. His early achievements, as composer and performer, show him to be extending the Viennese Classical tradition that he had inherited from Mozart and Haydn. As personal affliction – deafness, and the inability to enter into happy personal relationships – loomed larger, he began to compose in an increasingly individual musical style, and at the end of his life he wrote his most sublime and profound works. From his success at combining tradition and exploration and personal expression, he came to be regarded as the dominant musical figure of the 19th century, and scarcely any significant composer since his time has escaped his influence or failed to acknowledge it. For the respect his works have commanded of musicians, and the popularity they have enjoyed among wider audiences, he is probably the most admired composer in the history of Western music.