Liszt / Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 2 – Awful Mercury Mastering

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Sonic Grade: F

This recording was released through Mercury after Philips bought the label. It was recorded by Robert Fine and Wilma Cozart, mastered by George Piros, the legendary Mercury team of renown. It is instructive to note that the Philips mastering is dramatically superior to the mediocre Mercury mastering, which may strike you as counterintuitive, but is nonetheless a fact. It’s precisely the reason we play records all day here at Better Records. You can’t judge a record by its credentials. The only way to know how it sounds is to play it, and to really know how it sounds you must play it against a sizeable number of other copies.

Then, and only then, can you talk knowledgeably about the sound. (Note to forum posters: this means you.)

The potentially right pressing comes in a cover very much like this one:


Side One

Piano Concerto No. 1

Side Two

Piano Concerto No. 2


The main themes of Liszt’s first piano concerto are written in a sketchbook dated 1830, when Liszt was nineteen years old. He seems to have completed the work in 1849, yet made further adjustments in 1853. It was first performed at Weimar in 1855, with the composer at the piano and Berlioz conducting. Liszt made yet more changes before publication in 1856. Bartók wrote of the work as being “the first perfect realisation of cyclic sonata form, with common themes being treated on the variation principle”. The movements of the piano concerto are played without a break, though some recordings do separate the piece into 2, 3, or 4 different sections.

Franz Liszt wrote drafts for his Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 2 in A Major, no. 125 in Humphrey Searle’s catalog of Liszt’s works, during his virtuoso period, in 1839 to 1840. He revised it in several stages, ending in 1861. This concerto typically lasts about 20 minutes. This concerto is one single, long movement, which divide into four sections connected by transformations of several themes. The opening theme is heard throughout the piece, and a version of the theme of the scherzo-like section in B-flat minor is heard as a march in E major later in the work, for instance. The work has not proven as popular as the composer’s first piano concerto but has stayed in the repertoire.

The largest and best known portion of Liszt’s music is his original piano work… Liszt’s piano works are usually divided into two classes. On the one hand, there are “original works”, and on the other hand “transcriptions”, “paraphrases” or “fantasies” on works by other composers…

Liszt also made piano arrangements of his own instrumental and vocal works. Examples of this kind are the arrangement of the second movement “Gretchen” of his Faust Symphony and the first “Mephisto Waltz” as well as the “Liebesträume No. 3” and the two volumes of his “Buch der Lieder”.

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