Beethoven Symphonies (Liszt)

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Beethoven Symphonies (French: Symphonies de Beethoven), S.464, is a set of nine transcriptions for solo piano by Franz Liszt of Ludwig van Beethoven's symphonies.


By 1837, Liszt appears to have completed the transcriptions of the fifth, sixth and seventh symphonies, of which the fifth and sixth were published by Breitkopf & Härtel and the seventh by Tobias Haslinger. In 1843, he arranged the third movement of the Third Symphony, which was later published by Pietro Mechetti in 1850. Liszt was paid 8 francs per page by Breitkopf & Härtel, who first requested two symphonies to be transcribed. During his 1840 travels in Europe he might have given the transcribed symphonies some publicity by playing them at his concerts. With three symphonies transcribed, Liszt set aside the work for another 23 years. It was not until 1863 that Breitkopf & Härtel suggested to Liszt that he transcribe the complete set for a future publication. For this work, Liszt recycled his previous transcriptions by simplifying passages, stating that "the more intimately acquainted one becomes with Beethoven, the more one clings to certain singularities and finds that even insignificant details are not without their value". He would note down the names of the orchestral instruments for the pianist to imitate, he would also add pedal marks and fingerings for amateurs and sight readers.

When Liszt was trying to transcribe the choral movement of the ninth symphony for solo piano, he became "...convinced of the impossibility of making any pianoforte arrangement of [it]... that could in any way be... satisfactory". (He had in fact completed a transcription of the Ninth Symphony for two pianos in 1850.) Nevertheless, he made another attempt after an expressive letter from Breitkopf & Härtel. The full set of transcriptions was finally published in 1865 and dedicated to Hans von Bülow. The original publication of the fifth and sixth symphonies had been dedicated to the painter and amateur violinist Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres.[1]

Vladimir Horowitz, in a 1988 interview, stated he "deeply regret never having played Liszt’s arrangements of the Beethoven symphonies in public..these are the greatest works for the piano...tremendous works...every note of the symphonies is in the Liszt works.”[2]


  1. ^ Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed, 1954, Vol. V, p. 299: Franz Liszt: Catalogue of Works
  2. ^


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