This is a long piece. Its length is a function of intersecting thematic lines: a number of topics we’ve been discussing on the site – tempo and metronome markings in general; tempo and metronome markings in Beethoven’s symphonies; the piano, pianists, and the virtuosity of Franz Liszt (in particular) – all intersect in this post.
Let’s start with my recommendation and move on from there. Cyprien Katsaris (born 1951) performing Beethoven’s Symphonies, transcribed for piano by Franz Liszt.
While I write these words I’m listening to Katsaris’ performance of the breakneck fourth movement of Mr. B’s Symphony No. 4, and I’m doing everything I can to focus on typing and not jump out of my skin! In Katsaris’ hands, the symphony is easily as exciting, visceral, and slam-dunk powerful as it is when performed John Eliot Gardiner and his OrchestreRévolutionnaireetRomantic. Katsaris’ performances of these transcriptions have to be heard to be believed. I do not kid; I do not exaggerate; and I would never waste your time or money: you must have this recording. Stop reading, go on Amazon (or wherever), order it, and then come back. I’ll wait.
I’m going to make a statement, for some an imprudent statement. Here it is: Franz Liszt was, almost certainly, the greatest pianist to yet have lived.