Liszt-Beethoven Complete Symphonies Vol 3 Dynamic

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) 
Symphony No.5 in C minor Op.67 (1804-8, transcr. Liszt 1838)
Symphony No.2 in D major Op.36 (1802, transcr. Liszt, 1863)
Gabriele Baldocci (piano)
rec. 2022, MKMA Studios, Milton Keynes, UK
Liszt Beethoven Complete Symphonies Volume 3
Dynamic CDS7994 [70]

Gabriele Baldocci is in no rush to complete his Beethoven Liszt Symphony cycle; Volume 1 with the first and sixth symphonies was recorded in 2012 (Dynamic CDS731 review) and it was in 2015 that he added Volume 2 containing the third coupled with the Bagatelles op.126 (Dynamic CDS7771 review). A decade after the first disc he has recorded the second and fifth symphonies and though I haven’t heard the previous volumes I find myself agreeing with the enthusiasm shown by Byzantion and Dominy Clements. Baldocci plays with a sure technique and a fine ear for balancing textures and dynamics; just listen to the scherzo of the second symphony where he makes no concessions to the fleet writing but still manages to layer dynamics magnificently. I prefer the lightness and clarity he shows here to either Scherbakov or Biret who make more of the weight of the accents. Elsewhere in this symphony he is equally adept with spirited tempi while not pushing to the limits as Scherbakov does in the finale (Naxos 8550457). 

In the opening movement of the fifth he is actually about a minute slower than another fine account I have on my shelves, that of Leonardo Pierdomenico on Piano Classics (PCL10224 review) though it hardly feels slower at all thanks to the buoyancy and dash he brings to its rhythms. He is magical in the development section with a real pianissimo in the wind writing that allows the fate motif to really shock when it enters. Liszt’s genius can really be felt in the andante con moto where he juggles the varied manifestations of the theme with consummate skill and makes one wonder how anyone masters its lines with a mere two hands; Baldocci does so with admirable judgement even in the more grandiose sections though the extended arpeggios replacing Beethoven’s repeated chords are a little overwhelming. Pierdomenico is more successful here though I prefer Baldocci’s tempo. Baldocci doesn’t try to rush the scherzo, relishing the remorseless drive of the horn motifs but is no slow coach in the contrapuntal section either finding plenty of bite and vigour. Neither he nor Pierdomenico reach Liszt’s tempo, or at least the marking on the score I’m seeing, of dotted minim equals 96 but then again I don’t think I’ve ever heard it played quite that fast. Both of their chosen tempi are perfect in context. The energy is ramped up even further in the finale and though Baldocci has no issue with the technical demands that Liszt and Beethoven heap upon the soloist he still manages to convey a great sense of struggle. It is especially here in the many repeated chords and fortissimo writing that I began to see what Dominy meant about the piano having a historic character though I would not put this into the historic instrument category of recording. The booklet remains silent on the instrument used but I have no qualms about recommending the recording in terms of sound and the whole CD is an easy recommendation. I really enjoyed the energy and vigour of Baldocci’s performances and would hold them up against many an orchestral outing. With four symphonies to go it will be interesting to see how long the completion of this project takes.

Rob Challinor

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