December 8, 2021
Music for two pianos is a genre that often allows for ways to hear larger-scale concert music pared down into a more intimate genre. Throughout the 19th Century it was common practice for pianists to create transcriptions of symphonies and operas for their own public performances. A wider opportunity for published works for the advanced amateur also encouraged these many transcriptions. Franz Liszt is perhaps most well known for doing just this and his transcriptions of the Beethoven symphonies, albeit for solo (!) piano, are among the most challenging in the repertoire. They give a chance to admire Beethoven's music as well as Liszt's own pianism. The current release ((Navona 6382) is a new version of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony but for two pianos!
Pianist Eliane Rodrigues has taken Liszt's work as a point of departure and inspiration for her own adaptation for 2 pianos. This new performance is not a direct orchestral reduction, nor a note-for-note reassignment of Liszt's transcription. Instead, Rodrigues applies her own sense of the Beethoven's pianistic style with her own reading of the symphony. It allows her to craft a piece that sounds in line with Beethoven's solo sonatas and this allows for a greater reveal of some of the inner workings of the symphony, especially in the development sections.
Nina Smeets is Rodrigues' daughter and this adds an additional poignancy to the performance as well as we hear these two performers playing together. There is a unity of attack and approach to shaping phrases both thematically and in the accompanimental sections that draw the listener in to this very special performance. There is plenty of technical virtuosity to go around here and it is fascinating to hear how this transfers from one piano to the other as echo effects.
Certainly, this represents one of the finer releases in either soloists discography to date. It allows for the listener to enjoy Beethoven's music in this new way and stylistically it works quite well.