Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Liszt Abroad (songs in six languages)

Oh! Quand Je Dors
Enfant, si j'étais roi
Comment, disaient-ils
Im Rhein, im schönen Strome
Die Lorelei
Die Vätergruft
Petrarch Sonnet Nos. 104, 47 & 123
Go not, happy day
Morgens steh ich auf und frage
Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam
Du bist wie eine Blume
Wie singt die Lerche schon
Blume und Duft
Und wir dachten der Toten
Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh

Rebecca Evans (soprano), Andrew Kennedy (tenor), Matthew Rose (baritone) & Iain Burnside (piano)

Signum SIGCD155 [2007-2008; 79.32]

This well packed disc of Liszt songs in six languages (28 seconds within the 80 mins maximum !) explores a variety in the genre from this much-travelled virtuoso. Far too few of them are well known and this selection by Ian Burnside redresses the balance.

Liszt's choice of song texts reflect his attraction to the 19th Century literature and culture of many different countries, shown in these settings of French, German, Italian, English, Russian and Hungarian words.

The emotional and dramatic range is vast, covering four decades, from remarkable examples in the composer's twenties to sombre late songs with sparer textures but more daring harmonies. The selection closes with a Wagnerian song close to Parsifal - but composed nearly thirty years earlier. Burnside explores several themes, including the ambivalent "musical relationship between father in law and son-in-law - the former the more generous".

The three singers are equally excellent and taking turns make for an invigorating sequence, with Burnside revelling in his opportunities in the demanding piano parts. Anne Evans concentrates on line above diction, which is always hard for high sopranos.

The format pays a nod to Graham Johnson's The Songmaker's Almanac. One remembers that marvellous series, from which we older listeners learned so much, generally in concerts at the Wigmore Hall with the singers taking their turns and sitting on stage to listen to their colleagues. Perhaps it would have been better, if less honest, to have preserved the illusion here? On the last page of the mostly excellent booklet - full texts with English translations in clear black on white parallel printing, but no dates of the twenty items - it is revealed that the recordings at The Warehouse, London, spanned eight months with separate sessions for each singer and even different engineers...

Despite those minor reservations, this is a unique and uniquely valuable disc which should enjoy huge success. Perhaps one day their busy schedules might allow a live follow up at Wigmore Hall, to demonstrate that Liszt in song is well worth a whole evening.

Peter Grahame Woolf