One of the hallmarks of hyper-romanticism is Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. The number of musicians it inspired, puzzled or horrified is legion. After hearing it, the violinist, Nicolo Paganini (below left) was moved to commission Berlioz (center) to write a viola concerto for him. And Franz Liszt, the Paganini of the piano, (below right) became Berlioz's life long friend and champion. In these times of instant and perfect digital reproduction the notion of not being able to get what you want is troubling, but that was the problem in the nineteenth century. The score of the Symphonie Fantastique was not published for 15 years after it premiere. To help his friend and to further explore his own growing virtuosity, Liszt painstakingly transcribed the work achieving an accurate depiction of this orchestral showpiece for the piano.
There aren't many recordings of the Berlioz/Liszt Symphonie Fantastique, but someone who did it twice and with great passion and technique is the Turkish pianist Idil Biret. You can hear her knuckle-busting performance of this seminal masterpiece this Sunday afternoon on the Piano, heard on KPAC and KTXI at 5 pm.
Randy Anderson, host