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Transkriptionen, I: Transkriptionen der Werke von Hector Berlioz. Hrsg. von Laszlo Martos and Imre Mezo.

"Liszt is the alter ego (der nachste Wahlverwandte) of Berlioz and knows best of all how to perform his music." So observed Heinrich Heine in 1838 (Heinrich Heine, Historisch-kritische Gesamtausgabe der Werke, ed. Manfred Windfuhr, vol. 12, pt. 1 [Hamburg: Hoffman und Campe, 1980], 287); and although we tend to remember their falling out over (among other things) Richard Wagner's music, during the period in which Heine was writing, the friendship and mutual admiration of Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz were at their height. Nevertheless, Heine's statement seems odd when we consider that Liszt was a virtuoso pianist, while Berlioz wrote almost exclusively for the orchestra. Perhaps Heine had in mind Liszt's performances and recent publications of movements from his transcription of Berlioz's Symphonie fantastique. When we take into account Liszt's promotion of Berlioz's music and his uncanny ability to transfer Berlioz's orchestral effects to the piano, we can conclude that Heine's statement convincingly summarizes the relationship as it appeared to the two composers' contemporaries.

Not surprisingly, three of the four transcriptions contained in the present volume of the Liszt Neue Ausgabe (New Liszt Edition) date from the 1830s. This was a period in Berlioz's career when he felt unready to publish many of his compositions; thus, it was Liszt's piano versions that provided the means for disseminating these works outside of Paris. Schlesinger published Liszt's transcription of the Symphonie fantastique in 1834 in Paris, four years after the first performance, but eleven years before the orchestral score appeared. Given Berlioz's involvement in the project, we can presume that the composer was grateful for the exposure. Within three years, however, Berlioz had apparently grown ambivalent. Liszt's version of the two overtures (along with a transcription of Harold en Italie for viola and piano) date from 1837, but only the Ouverture des Francs-juges was published, and then not until 1846 (Paris: Richault; Mainz: Schott). In fact, by this time Berlioz himself no longer saw the need for such arrangements: "Nothing displeases me more than these travesties of the orchestra on the piano" (letter of 6 June 1845; Correspondance general, ed. Pierre Citron, 6 vols. to date [Paris: Flammarion, 1972-95], 3:253). Thus, the last transcriptions of Berlioz's scores that Liszt saw through the press had more to do with expanding the pianist's repertory than discharging any further duty to his friend. The Marche des pelerins dates from the 1860s, and Liszt published it in 1866 (Winterthur: J. Rieter-Brederman) along with the Danse des Sylphes and a revised version of the Marche au supplice. Later he supervised the publication of the long-misplaced transcription of Harold en Italie and a new edition of the Symphonie fantastique at the end of the 1870s.

An important aspect of these transcriptions is their preservation of earlier versions of Berlioz's compositions. Berlioz revised the Symphonie fantastique several times between its premiere in 1830 and the publication of the orchestral score in 1845. As early as m. 18 of the first movement, for example, violins play in thirds as opposed to the single line of the familiar version, and in mm. 121-24 the accompaniment is conspicuously different. These revisions also encompass the statement of the idee fixe in Un bal, an alteration noted in both collected editions of Berlioz's works and discussed in an article by D. Kern Holoman ("Reconstructing a Berlioz Sketch," Journal of the American Musicological Society 28 [1975]: 125-30). As another example, in the Ouverture du Roi Lear, Berlioz considerably altered mm. 617-26 of the coda. The copious instrumental cues printed in the piano version even reveal subtle changes in orchestral detail. Many of these earlier readings no longer appear in the surviving autograph scores, and only the transcriptions verify their onetime existence, albeit in a black-and-white snapshot.

Except for the Symphonie fantastique, the sources for these transcriptions are straightforward. Only a single edition appeared in Liszt's lifetime of the Ouverture des Francs-juges and the Marche des pelerins, and in the case of the latter, Liszt's autograph manuscript is also extant. The Ouverture du Roi Lear remained unpublished in Liszt's lifetime, although the composer did include it in a thematic catalogue issued by Breitkopf & Hartel in 1855. In fact, this transcription did not appear in print until 1987, in an edition published by the Liszt Society in London. If the version in the New Liszt Edition does not completely supercede the older Liszt Society score, it is considerably more elegant in presentation. Again, there is only a single source, Liszt's autograph.

The intertwined sources of the Symphonie fantastique present a much more complicated picture that is of historical importance to both Liszt and Berlioz scholarship. Unfortunately, decisions made by the editors, Laszlo Martos and Imre Mezo, have obscured certain key aspects. Dating from 1833 and 1834, the Symphonie fantastique was Liszt's first major transcription, and several years later he reflected on the process: "I scrupulously applied myself, as if I were producing the translation of a sacred text" (Revue et gazette musicale de Paris, 5 [11 February 1838]; cited in Franz Liszt, Pages romantiques, ed. Jean Chantavoine [Paris: Felix Alcan, 1912], 137). His goal was to transfer "the effects of detail and the myriad harmonic and rhythmic combinations," and he gave the result a new designation, "partition de piano," used for the first time on the title page of the Paris edition. Only a glance at the first measures reveals the care Liszt put into reproducing every aspect of Berlioz's orchestral score, including details of the voice leading and instrumental cues. Such faithfulness was impossible to maintain throughout a score as orchestrally conceived as the Symphonie fantastique, but Liszt's solutions are always in the spirit of the music. In addition, there are numerous performance indications liberally sprinkled throughout Liszt's transcription but lacking in any copy of the orchestral score. As early as m. 3, we find lugubre, and, at the initial statement of the idee fixe, espressivo con passione appears instead of the orchestral score's canto espressivo. Given Liszt's avowed "scrupulous translation," these indications must in some way hark back to Berlioz; Liszt was present at the first performance of the work on 5 December 1830, and very likely he attended performances in 1832 and 1833. Moreover, Berlioz corrected the proofs of Liszt's transcription (see his letter of 15 May 1834; Correspondance general, 2:184). As a guide to Berlioz's original intentions, the indications preserved in Liszt's version are, therefore, invaluable.

The policy of the New Liszt Edition is to prefer above all others the final version of a work published in Liszt's lifetime. The publication history of the Symphonie fantastique, however, justifiably challenges the decision to use the 1876 version rather than the original 1834 edition as the principal text. The basis of the later edition was a set of plates previously used for a Viennese issue (Trentsensky & Viewig, 1836; later A. O. Witzendorf, ca. 1844), and, although evidently based on the Parisian first edition, the publisher inexplicably omitted the instrumental indications. When these plates were acquired by the Leipzig publisher F. E. C. Leuckart, the firm contacted Liszt, who agreed to revise the score (see his letter of 15 November 1876; Briefe, ed. LaMara, vol. 2 [Leipzig: Breitkopf & Hartel, 1893], 246). The resulting edition reinstated some, but not all, of the instrumental cues while deleting many of the added performance indications and simplifying numerous passages. Furthermore, because Liszt never consulted the published orchestral score, the changes that Berlioz made both to the music and the instrumentation do not appear in this revised transcription. Even the opus number on the title page is incorrect. Evidently the ideals of the "partition de piano" were no longer a priority to Liszt. With these facts in mind, I would have preferred that the New Liszt Edition had used the original Paris edition as its basis, with the changes made in the 1876 version relegated to an addendum. An additional problem is that the critical notes insufficiently list the variant readings of the earlier editions.

I take issue with other decisions made by the editors. As noted, the Marche des pelerins was published at the same time as transcriptions of the Danse des Sylphes and a revised version of the Marche au supplice, which includes an introduction based on the idee fixe (different, however, from a paraphrase on the same theme published in 1846). Although published with separate title pages, the three transcriptions have consecutive plate numbers, and both the key scheme and character of each piece in the sequence suggest that Liszt might have intended a concert suite. The present edition apparently omits the Danse because it contains a brief prelude and postlude of Liszt's own invention (thereby removing it from the genre of transcription, at least in the mind of the editors), and the Marche because the idee fixe introduction is a paraphrase, even if it is attached to a straightforward transcription. Interested pianists will have to await the publication of the freie Bearbeitungen (ser. 2, vol. 11) to examine these works. In addition, I should note another transcription of the Marche des pelerins, which appears to date from about the same time as the transcriptions of the overtures and differs from the version included in the present volume. This earlier version has never been published.

Within the editorial parameters enumerated above, the volume is very well produced and fully up to the standards of the New Liszt Edition. In the preface, the editors have summarized the history of each work, taking care to note relevant letters, articles, and publication information. Parts of the English translation are unusually awkward, however, with the German being slightly preferable. Although carefully footnoted, the preface does not always refer to the most recent scholarship, especially when citing Berlioz's letters. The critical notes at the end of the volume include a description of all the sources and a list of measures in the score where one source deviates from another. In addition, the editors have compared the transcriptions against Berlioz's orchestral scores to correct details of phrasing and, occasionally, instrumentation, and have also noted passages where the transcription diverges from the original. These differences include the omission of isolated measures in three of the four works, which may represent an earlier version of Berlioz's score or, as the editors note, stem from "Liszt's chance slip of the pen (p. xiv)."

Berlioz himself remarked that "Liszt has just arranged my symphony for the piano; it's astonishing" (letter of 30 August 1833; Correspondance generale, 2:113); and when Charles Halle heard Liszt perform the Marche au supplice on the piano immediately after an orchestral performance, he noted that it had an effect "even surpassing that of the full orchestra" (Autobiography of Charles Halle: With Correspondence and Diaries, ed. Michael Kennedy [London: Paul Elek, 1972], 57). It is hard to imagine such performances, but these transcriptions are an invaluable souvenir of Liszt's first years of "transcendental execution," and for that reason alone Liszt scholars will welcome their wide availability in an accurate and scholarly edition. On another level, Robert Schumann was able to comment in considerable detail not only on the music but also on the orchestration with only Liszt's transcription before him. Given the accuracy of these transcriptions and the fact that they document readings of Berlioz's works that are otherwise lost, Berlioz scholars should not overlook this volume, which may offer as much to them as it does to anyone studying the music of Liszt. Perhaps Heine's observation remains the most telling of all: these transcriptions do indeed serve as a testimony to a time when two of the most remarkable musical figures of the age shared a mutual devotion.

JAY ROSENBLATT University of Arizona
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Author:Rosenblatt, Jay
Publication:Notes
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 1, 1997
Words:1943
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