“His lieder with piano accompaniment should not be brushed
aside as mere trivialities.” Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
From Liszt’s vast corpus of mainly solo piano works there are, by my
reckoning, some eighty or so songs. They set texts by his favourite,
mainly German poets: Heinrich Heine, Johann Wolfgang
Goethe and Friedrich Schiller and also other nationalities such
as Nikolaus Lenau, Victor Hugo et al.
lieder cannot claim to be to the same elevated standard
as those of his contemporaries: Schubert, Schumann and Mendelssohn
but they make rewarding listening. Certainly they are more than
a mere sideline to his huge compositional output. Liszt took
the composition of his songs seriously and music writer Kathrin
Feldmann expresses the opinion that, “Franz Liszt viewed
his songs with a great deal of objectivity and a critical-constructive
position.”A Through his lieder it is possible
to chart the development of Liszt’s compositional style from
illustrative tone-painting to a more economical form of expression
for his love of literature. A check on the compositional dates
reveals that the settings emanate predominantly from Liszt’s
Weimar Years (1848-61).
German soprano Ruth Ziesak studied in Frankfurt and began her
singing career as a member of the Heidelberg Municipal Theatre.
By the early 1990s Ziesak had established an international career
in lyric soprano operatic roles, also in lieder and in
concert performances. She is an impressive lieder performer
and demonstrates here her mellow timbre and enviable tuning.
Her secure technique only rarely threatens to loosen under pressure,
such as in the testing Wieder möcht' ich dir begegnen.
the many highlights I especially enjoyed the opening song, the
celebrated Die drei Zigeuner with its striking piano
introduction. Ziesak demonstrates a remarkably assured delivery
throughout the varying moods of the challenging score. In the
Vergiftet sind meine Lieder Ziesak is dramatic, soaring
to the heavens and she delivers a beautifully rapturous interpretation
of the famous Die Loreley.
stille Wasserrose is buoyantly powerful and dramatic and
I was highly satisfied with the passionate outpourings of both
Der du von dem Himmel bist and Mignons Lied.
I enjoyed Ziesak’s beautiful singing in the melancholic
Es muß ein Wunderbares sein and was delighted with her
confidence and boldly vigorous performance of Ihr Auge.
Few could fail to be impressed with her performance of Liszt’s
melodious setting O lieb, solang du lieben kannst – one
that he later arranged into the famous solo piano score Liebesträume
No. 3, S541.
the catalogue of Liszt lieder recordings one of the most
enduring versions has been the 1979-80 London performances on
EMI from the eminent mezzo Dame Janet Baker accompanied by the
impressive Geoffrey Parsons. Dame Janet splendidly interprets
a fine selection of twelve lieder on a double set on
EMI Classics 5 73836-2 (c/w Schumann 12 lieder (Barenboim,
piano) and Mendelssohn 16 lieder). I note
that the EMI set duplicates half of the twelve songs contained
on Ziesak’s disc. See the track listing in the footnotes.B
For those wishing to explore more of Liszt’s vocal music I can also
recommend a disc of a selection of Liszt’s twenty-six extant
orchestral songs performed by various soloists accompanied by
the Hungarian State Orchestra conducted by András Kórodi.
The disc was recorded in 1985 in Budapest on Hungaroton HCD
12105. The track details are listed in the notes below.C
was highly delighted with these assured performances from the
outstanding soprano Ruth Ziesak and her impeccable accompanist
Gerold Huber. Recorded in Cologne, the sound quality achieved
by the Berlin Classics engineers is excellent. Although this set
includes an English translation of the splendid essay we are denied
an English translation of the German song texts. This is an omission
that seems disrespectful of Liszt’s strenuous efforts to set texts
sensitively. It’s also a lost opportunity for English speakers
to assess Ziesak’s interpretive prowess. The disc is nevertheless
a likely contender for one of my 2008 Records of the Year.
Kathrin Feldmann writing in the sleeve-notes to the
2007 release of Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt Lieder performed
by Konrad Jarnot (baritone) and Alexander Schmalcz (piano) on
Oehms Classics OC 804.
Dame Janet Baker (mezzo); Geoffrey Parsons (piano)
remastered, recorded at Abbey Road studios, London 1979-80 from
EMI Classics 5 73836-2 (c/w Lieder Schumann & Mendelssohn):
Die Loreley; Du bist wie eine Blume; S'il est
un charmant gazon; Im Rhein im schönen Strome; Über
allen Gipfeln ist Ruh; Der du von dem Himmel bist;
Es war ein König in Thule; Freudvoll und leidvoll;
Die Drei Zigeuner; Das Veilchen; Die Vätergruft;
C Orchestral Songs
Tokody (soprano); Tamara Takács (mezzo-soprano); Klára Takács
(mezzo-soprano); András Molnár (tenor) & Sándor Sólyom-Nagy
(baritone) with Zoltán Dõry (violin). Hungarian State Orchestra
conducted by András Kórodi. DDD, recorded 1985 on Hungaroton HCD
12105: Die Loreley, S369 (Heinrich Heine); Jeanne d'Arc
au bûcher, S373 (Alexandre Dumas Sr.); Mignons Lied,
S370 (Johann Wolfgang Goethe); Three Songs from Wilhelm Tell,
S372 (Friedrich Schiller): a) Der Fischerknabe; b)
Der Hirt & c) Der Alpenjäger; Die drei Zigeuner,
S374 (Nikolaus Lenau).
part of the International Music Score Library Project, Wikipedia
(the free on-line encyclopedia) hold a detailed and helpful ‘List
of Compositions by Franz Liszt’ that evidently contains additions
to Humphrey Searle’s 1966 list made by Sharon Winklhofer and Leslie
Howard. In two sections the list of Searle numbers (S) run from
S.1-S.350 and S.351-S.999. This list proves to be valuable tool