Review by georgeflanagin July 30, 2006 (4 of 5 found this review helpful)
|Glenda got home the from work the other day while Op. 6 from this disc was playing. She stopped briefly and said, "Ah, my sister and I used to play that. I have it in a book upstairs." And that was about all she said. The variations are also moderately interesting, and despite my having quite a few Beethoven discs, most of this disc was new to me. The fifteen minutes of Op. 45 is the highlight of the disc.
Listening once-through to them gives the listener a little insight into Beethoven's brain, but the majority of this disc is taken up not by Beethoven's direct composition, but by Ulrich's re-composition of the Symphony #7 for four hand piano. Forty-two of seventy-seven minutes, to be exact.
I do not want to dwell on Fanfare Magazine for too long, but Jerry Dubins' review of this disc may be found in Vol. XXIX No. 5, p 63. I read many of Dubins' reviews because he and I apparently listen to much of the same stuff. I don't think he actually listened to the Ulrich transcription because it is both leaden and busy sounding, and he mentions neither of these traits. In fact, if you read the review, you will see that very little of it is a review of the disc at hand.
I consider myself reasonably up to scratch on the Liszt transcriptions of the A major symphony. I slightly prefer the earlier (1838) transcription which I believe may only be available on disc on Hyperion CDA67111/3. Either of the Liszt's two hand transcriptions give you plenty to appreciate; they are a bit like an X-ray into the music, letting you see its bones without the flesh. Not so with the Ulrich transcription. Ulrich's transcription sounds like an effort to keep 20 moderately skilled fingers relatively occupied.
Since Symphony #7 is Glenda's favorite of the Beethoven symphonies, I had her listen to the four hand version on this disc. She found it boring, and my evidence is that after a few minutes I could see her attention wander, and her eyes were searching out the book of crosswords. That's pretty much my point of view.
As far as the recording, it is well below the standards of Praga that I have come to expect. There is nothing really "wrong" with it, but it sounds like a mid 1990s CD. The piano lacks sparkle, both in the recording qualities and the tuning/voicing.
I recommend skipping this disc unless your motivation is like mine: "Hmmm. Missing opus numbers from my collection; better get it."
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