Piano Transcriptions of Symphonies

Ferdinand Hiller, Robert Schumann


World Premiere Recordings



"Ronald Lau gives us singingly musical performances of these rare transcriptions. In the end there is much to like."
Grego Applegate Edwards [October 2020]
"Lau’s performance of Schumann’s Symphony No.2 in C major in the 1882 transcription by Theodor Kirchner, gets to the essence of a standard orchestral work that we might have been in danger of taking for granted. And his account of his own transcription of Symphony in E minor by Ferdinand Hiller may help to resurrect a forgotten musical figure."
Phil Muse, Atlanta Audio Club [October 2020]
"the main theme of the first movement [of the Schumann] – which appears after a very extended introduction – has a quality both indecisive and lurching, making it difficult to pace well and present effectively. This seems not to trouble Ronald Lau at all: he moves enthusiastically from the opening Sostenuto assai section into the main portion of the movement, propelling it a bit more quickly than its Allegro ma non troppo indication would suggest and thereby giving it greater forward momentum than it usually has. This works quite well, as does the emphatic handling of the second-movement Scherzo."
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [August 2020]
"to hear the complete piece is a treat, especially with such a musical transcriber and interpreter as Lau, who clearly feels strongly about the piece. And rightly so, it turns out. The music, is fresh and vital, the long first movement full of drama and fresh contrasts that feel like a cross between Mendelssohn and Schumann. Even after hearing it on orchestra, Lau feels like a viable alternative rather than a second-best... Lau is clearly of the Brendel school of pianists who believe in variety of touch related to finite orchestral effects, and it works brilliantly in terms of the spectrum of tone on offer... When the textures pile up, the transcription excitingly tends towards the Lisztian, and Lau brilliantly provides the thrill of the brass (horns and trumpets) powering through in the final measures... [In the Schumann/Kirchner transcription] Lau comes truly into his own, the barer piano textures adding extra poignancy, allowing for a new perspective on the music; and he manages to find the right brightness for the joy contained within the finale... The recording, made at the University of Iowa [is one of] MSR’s finest, rich yet allowing for every detail to come through... Lau is a master of his instrument, his pedalling in particular calling for praise... On reading the cover of this disc, it seemed inconceivable that this might be shortlisted for my Wants List. And yet, here it is, in a fairly hotly contested field this year—watch this space, they are nearly upon us! An important, and enriching, disc. Five Stars: Lau is a master of his instrument and the recording is one of MSR’s finest. An important disc"
Colin Clarke, Fanfare [September/October 2020]
"this new MSR disc is a most welcome additions to this every growing list of symphonic piano transcriptions... Lau is a really superb and young concert pianist who has made this rather hereto unknown Symphony of Hiller a superb addition to the piano transcription catalog; moreover, his sensitive and colorful approach certainly makes the concert piano a most orchestral instrument indeed... [In Kirchner's transcription of the Schumann] the colors of its orchestral beginnings are most apparent throughout this excellent recording.... Lau certainly has a flair for the dramatic as well as a total understanding for the Art of piano transcription composition and perform. His technique certainly reflects his understanding for nuance, expression, bravura and panache... [the Steinway] has a beautiful overall balance in its registers... This new disc is highly recommended for any musician, pianist, and piano aficionado who loves and enjoys the Art of the Symphonic Piano Transcription."
Dennis E. Ferrara, Fanfare [September/October 2020]
"There is something about this album that is particularly momentous in these turbulent and uncertain times... With Lau’s performance, these pieces seem to be undergoing a revival... Lau gives subtle performance[s], deftly handling dynamic textures that are both soft and driving... Lau’s transcription of Hiller’s symphony is strenuous—Lau isn’t taking any short-cuts or making this easy on himself... [the Hiller movements] demonstrate Lau’s capacity for retaining the vitality and complexity of the original symphony... My favorite [Schumann movement] is probably the Adagio, which is expressive, but playful and seems again to give Lau more opportunities to develop dynamics and textures that are illuminating... [I think] highly of Lau’s performance and transcription... he should be and hope he will be more widely heard."
Jacqueline Kharouf, Fanfare [September/October 2020]
"Schumann [was] among the composers whose works Kirchner transcribed and arranged with great skill... This transcription by pianist Pui Yan Ronald Lau may thus be the first time anyone in living memory has laid ears on any of Hiller’s five symphonies... Lau has performed an important service in making this transcription, for we may never have the opportunity to hear the work any other way. [This is Pui Yan's] first commercial recording, and it demonstrates not only his outstanding artistry as a pianist, but also his skill as a transcriber, and his enterprising boldness to program something new and different. There is, of course, more to recommend here than novelty, but that factors into and counts as well in the overall strong recommendation. Five stars: Unusual programming and outstanding playing win the day."
Jerry Dubins, Fanfare [September/October 2020]
"The pairing of theHillerandSchumann’sis an apt oneMuch of Hiller’s orchestral writing relies upon forceful ensemble chords that lends itself well to a transcription for piano. That transcription is by the recording’s featured pianist, Pui Yan Ronald Lau, who successfully captures the attractive and dynamic nature of Hiller’s orchestral score. Lau plays his transcription with admirable Romantic fire and technical assuredness.The transcription of the Schumann Symphony No. 2 is by Theodor Kirchner, circa 1882. Again, both the transcription and its performance are quite fine. As in the Hiller, Lau proves himself an artist completely at home with the Romantic voice.For those who enjoy music of the mid-Romantic era, this disc is worth acquiring for the Hiller transcription alone. But the opportunity to hear Kirchner’s take on Schumann’s orchestral score is also a worthwhile endeavor. Recommended. 4 Stars-Fine world premiere recordings."
Ken Meltzer, Fanfare [September/October 2020]
"this has been an exciting 70 minutes. I hope you will share my enthusiasm... Four stars: Just oddball enough to love"
James H. North, Fanfare [September/October 2020]
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