Piano Transcriptions of Symphonies

Ferdinand Hiller, Robert Schumann


World Premiere Recordings



Through the decline of basso continuo and technological advancements to the instrument, the piano became the most accessible and popular instrument in nineteenth-century homes. Arrangements for piano, including reductions, transcriptions and paraphrases, emerged out of necessity as a substantial medium for rehearsals and domestic music appreciation, and as artistic manifestations in themselves. This album includes two symphonic transcriptions produced in keeping with this tradition: Ferdinand Hiller’s Symphony in E minor as transcribed by Ronald Lau and Robert Schumann’s Symphony No.2 in C major as transcribed by Theodor Kirchner.

The three German composers, Ferdinand Hiller (1811-1885), Robert Schumann (1810-1856) and Theodor Kirchner (1823-1903), were all at the beginning of their careers in the 1830s and 1840s. Today, Hiller is mostly known as the close friend of Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann. Through his correspondence, moments in music history, such as the youthful adventures among Chopin, Liszt and Mendelssohn in Paris, Mendelssohn’s depression, Hiller’s long silent walk with Schumann and numerous discussions among these composers about their composing and performing process have been made known. Hiller was himself, in fact, an accomplished pianist, composer, acclaimed conductor, and the predecessor and advocate for Schumann taking the positions as the director of Dresden male voice choir Liedertafel in 1847 and director of music of the city of Dusseldorf in 1850. Schumann, by virtue of his unique creativity and assisted by the compelling promotion by Clara Schumann and Johannes Brahms, is now the most recognized and credited composer among them. Kirchner, an organist, composer and transcriber, became acquainted with Schumann through his studies in theory and organ at Nikolai Church in Leipzig in 1838 and the 1843 first class of the Leipzig Conservatory. His passion for Schumann’s and Brahms’s music led him to become one of the main transcribers of their works.

Pianist Pui Yan Ronald Lau performs extensively as a solo pianist, collaborative pianist and cross-discipline pianist, performing with dancers. An active performer, Lau has frequently been invited to perform on the 1878 Steinway piano in the Old Capitol Museum in Iowa. He has also performed on Vladimir Horowitz’s Steinway piano in the Piano Extravaganza 2013-14. Enthusiastically received as a collaborative pianist, Lau has performed with duos and chamber ensembles with numerous musicians, including violinists Tim Cuffman, Leonardo Perez, Chang-En Lu and Biffa Kwok; cellists Matthew Laughlin, EunKyung Son and Cynthia Yau; bassoonist Stephanie Patterson and vocalists Lisa Neher and Nicholas Miguel. Lau also served as the teaching assistant of the University of Iowa Choral Department during the 2013-14 academic year, performing with Kantorei and Camerata under the batons of Timothy Stalter, David Puderbaugh, Shannon Gravelle and Benjamin Luedcke. In 2018 and 2019, Lau was the staff collaborative pianist of Caroga Arts Collective’s summer festival, “Your Body Is Your Strad” National Summer Cello Institute. Lau’s involvement as a collaborative pianist connects him to non-musical areas of the arts. As an example, he participated on the accompanying team of the University of Iowa Dance Department from 2011 to 2013, and was the collaborative pianist in the Graduate Performance 2013 with dancers Jeremy Blair and Marie Brown. Since 2014, Lau has been working as an assistant engineer in the University of Iowa School of Music’s recording studio, under James Edel’s supervision. He has participated in the production of numerous commercial releases, including Contemplation by the University of Iowa Saxophone Ensemble and Kenneth Tse; Crescendo by Johnson County Landmark and John Rapson; David DeBoor Canfield: Chamber Music, Volume 4; Hot Tamale Louie: The Story of Zarif Khan by John Rapson; Ich Denke Dein - Songs and Chamber Works of Nikolai Medtner by Rachel Joselson, Sasha Burdin and Scott Conklin; Gabriel Dupont: Complete Piano Music by Bo Ties; Portuguese Perspectives by Courtney Miller and Minji Kwon; Music for Strings by David Gompper; and Brahms In Transcriptions by pianist Uriel Tsachor. Lau completed his Doctor of Musical Arts and master’s degree at the University of Iowa under the mentorship of Uriel Tsachor. While at UI, Lau studied in master classes and private coaching sessions with numerous other celebrated artists, including Daniel Shapiro, Asaf Zohar, Roberta Rust, Uri Vardi, Rich Shuster, Jane Solose, Janis Vakarelis, Yen-Tim Timothy Li and Ting Zhou. He received his Bachelor’s degree at the Hong Kong Baptist University under the guidance of pianist Amelia Chan.
SYMPHONY IN E MINOR, OP.67, “Es muβ doch Frühling werden” (1848)
Transcribed for Piano by Pui Yan Ronald Lau (2018)
I. Allegro energico e con fuoco
II. Adagio
III. Allegro vivace
IV. Finale – Allegro vivace

SYMPHONY NO.2 IN C MAJOR, OP.61 (1845-6)
Transcribed for Piano by Theodor Kirchner (c.1882)
I. Sostenuto assai – Allegro ma non troppo
II. Scherzo: Allegro vivace
III. Adagio espressivo
IV. Allegro molto vivace

MSR Classics