Liszt/Stradal: Symphonic Poems, Volume 1
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Franz Liszt: Complete Symphonic Poems, transcribed for solo piano by August Stradal, Volume One

Catalogue Number: TOCC0035
EAN: 5060113440358
Release Date: 22 February 2010
Duration: 65:15

Les Préludes
Heroïde Funèbre
Die Ideale

Risto-Matti Marin, piano

Although Liszt’s thirteen symphonic poems exist in two-piano transcriptions prepared by the composer himself, it was his Czech student August Stradal (1860–1930) who was to transcribe them for solo piano – versions which demand almost superhuman virtuosity. As Malcolm MacDonald writes in his booklet essay, Stradal’s versions ‘transform these revolutionary orchestral compositions into viable and effective piano works, faithfully preserving their masterly musical substance’

Booklet texts   (PDF)

Track Listing, MP3 Downloads and Streaming Samples

Track No. Track Title / Details Duration Sample Add to Cart
1 Les Préludes: Symphonic Poem No. 3 (1848)

Franz Liszt, composer
August Stradal, transcriber
Risto-Matti Marin, piano

(first recording)
17:05 play
2 Heroïde Funèbre: Symphonic Poem No. 8 (1850)

Franz Liszt, composer
August Stradal, transcriber
Risto-Matti Marin, piano

(first recording)
19:19 play
3 Die Ideale: Symphonic Poem No. 12 (1857)

Franz Liszt, composer
August Stradal, transcriber
Risto-Matti Marin, piano

(first recording)
28:51 play


Ferenc Liszt (Franz Liszt)

Franz Liszt, composer
[credit: portrait by Wilhelm von Kaulbach, 1856]

August Stradal

August Stradal, transcriber

Risto-Matti Marin

Risto-Matti Marin, piano


Enthusiastically recommended

When Fanfare issued its first number in September 1977, far more of Liszt’s vast, labyrinthine catalog was terra incognitathan 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 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.

Adrian Corleonis Fanfare November 2011


1 comment – add a comment

This CD is excellent, and I had been waiting anxiously for the next volume in this series. I bought the next, Vol 2, today. I hope there will not be as long a wait for the third volume to become available.

Comparing the Stradal transcriptions with others is instructive. I note that also Karl Straube worked on piano and organ transcriptions of the Symphonic Poems at about the time he revised Liszt's Fantasie and Fugue on BACH for organ. Straube was way overshadowed by Stradal in this effort, but the interest was there.

Symphonic Poem #3, Les Preludes , performed by Leslie Howard on Hyperion versus the Marin/Stradal performances here, have some differences. I love both. I'd note not all of the Symphonic Poems are to be found in Howard's massive Liszt collection, only about half are there. So Toccata's and Marin's continued effort with this series is especially important to us Liszt enthusiasts. And I hope Toccata brings us a lot more of Stradal 's output in addition to his Liszt transcriptions.

Tom 19 June 2013