Beethoven - Symphonies (arr. Scharwenka) Vol.5 | Somm SOMMCD0687

Beethoven - Symphonies (arr. Scharwenka) Vol.5


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Label: Somm

Cat No: SOMMCD0687

Barcode: 0748871068728

Format: CD

Number of Discs: 1

Genre: Chamber

Release Date: 21st June 2024



SOMM Recordings proudly announces this fifth and penultimate release in the complete cycle of the Beethoven Symphonies arranged for piano four-hands by the great Polish-German composer and pianist Xaver Scharwenka. This is a series that has consistently had listeners “waiting impatiently for the next volume” (MusicWeb International).

Of the many piano-duo versions of the Symphonies, Scharwenka’s benefit from an unbroken link back to Beethoven himself, for the arranger was a piano student of Franz Kullak, who in turn studied under the master symphonist’s pupil Carl Czerny. The present Volume 5 adds Symphonies 4 & 8 to the collection, coupled with Ferruccio Busoni’s two-piano transcription of Mozart’s Magic Flute Overture BV B93, leaving only Beethoven’s “Choral” Ninth still to be released on the series’ concluding instalment.

The performers undertaking this monumental recording project, the “phenomenal” piano duo of Tessa Uys and Ben Schoeman (“In Tune”, BBC Radio 3), have performed all nine symphony arrangements in public for almost a decade, breeding a familiarity that informs the impeccable ensemble and authoritative vision they bring to the recordings. Gramophone’s Peter J. Rabinowitz lauded this in Volume 4: “Uys and Schoeman cut through the clutter with impressive unanimity; and their finely gauged handling of dynamics and their rhythmic drive … assure that the symphonies emerge with their shape intact, even shorn of orchestral colour. It all sounds idiomatic, both as Beethoven and as piano music … knowledgeable and illuminating.” The Sunday Times’s Dan Cairns, who named Volume 3 a “Classical Album of the Week”, also relished those “dual delights: you can just as easily feel you are listening to entirely new works as experience moments when your response will be along the lines of: ‘Ah yes, that bit’. Both are richly rewarding … a fascinating listening experience.”

The two-piano Magic Flute Overture included here echoes Volume 4 in the series, which featured the Mozart-Busoni Duettino concertante based on the Finale of Piano Concerto no.19, a performance hailed in BBC Music Magazine as “brilliantly conceived and light as a feather”. Ateş Orga, reviewing for International Piano, noted the change in aural texture from the four-hands Beethoven to two pianos, “the audible separation of instruments enhancing their spatial impact”.

Ferruccio Busoni was a younger contemporary of Scharwenka, and they died the same year, making this the centenary of the deaths of both pianist–composers. Perhaps most associated with arrangements of Bach, Busoni also championed the music of his fellow Freemason Mozart, and he celebrates that link in his transcription of the Masonic opera’s overture.

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