Franz LISZT (1811 – 1886)
Voll Freud und Leid Ausgewählte Lieder
1. Im Rhein, im schönen Strome [2:32]
2. Morgens steh ich auf und frage [1:41]
3. Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam [2:52]
4. Anfangs wollt ich fast verzagen [1:43]
5. Du bist wie eine Blume [1:51]
6. Vergiftet sind meine Lieder [1:35]
7. Die Loreley [5:43]
8. Es war ein König in Thule [3:15]
9. Freudvoll und leidvoll [2:39]
10. Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen ass [4:13]
11. Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh [3:30]
12. Der du von dem Himmel bist [2:56]
13. Die drei Zigeuner [6:01]
14. Es muss ein Wunderbares sein [1:48]
15. Das Veilchen [2:52]
16. Die Schlüsselblumen [2:40]
17. Nonnenwerth [3:17]
18. Der Fischerknabe [3:17]
19. Der Hirt [3:40]
20. Der Alpenjäger [1:49]
Hans Jörg Mammel (tenor), Hilko Dumno (piano)
rec. Festburgkirche, Frankfurt am Main, 31 May – 2 June 2010
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
CARUS 83.446 [59:57]

Compared to his music for piano or orchestra Liszt’s songs are more modestly represented in concert or on record. He wrote songs during most of his life and there are about six dozen of them, not counting the many alternative versions that exist. He set mainly German and French poetry but there are also songs in Italian, Russian and Hungarian and a single one in English. Less than a year ago I reviewed a disc entitled ‘Liszt Abroad’ with excellent singing and songs in all the languages mentioned (review). Even later Hyperion issued the first volume in a projected series where all his songs, also the various variants of the same songs, are to be recorded. In volume 1 American tenor Matthew Polenzani (review) turned out to be an ideal Liszt interpreter; thus there are two very recent issues that are wholly recommendable.

Hans Jörg Mammel has a somewhat narrower scope, choosing only German poems. On the other hand some of the best of Liszt’s songs are included: Die Loreley, Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh, Die drei Zigeuner and Es muss ein Wunderbares sein. Mammel has a well equalized, basically lyric voice but has also the power to sing the more dramatic songs. Here though he tends to press the voice beyond its natural means, the tone hardens and he even resorts to shouting. A couple of years ago, on reviewing a Schumann disc for Naxos, I found him rather uneven and though there were several good things the overall impression was less than memorable. I found him better here. He nuances well and his soft singing is beautiful but sometimes close to crooning. Morgens steh ich auf und frage (tr. 2) is a good example: intimate and concentrated but in the end it is rather one-dimensional. The next song, Ein Fichtenbaum with wide dynamics in the piano part, sounds undernourished. He tends to be more or less swamped by the piano, and that goes for many of the songs. The restrained songs no doubt suit him best, Du bist wie eine Blume (tr. 5) agreeably sung but in the long run there is too little variation. Die Loreley is well nuanced but rather pale. One of the best songs is the fine Goethe setting Über allen Gipfeln where he manages to bring out the crescendo on Warte nur and the three times repeated balde, where the third is the apex of the composition, as a long unbroken escalation. He also does well in the lively Die drei Zigeuner.

It is often a matter of personal taste whether one likes a singer or not. I like a lot of what Mammel is doing but he lessens the impact of the songs by making them seem smaller than they are. Both the discs mentioned in the first paragraph are preferable but they are not strictly comparable when it comes to the contents. Readers who want this special programme should try some excerpts on, for instance, Amazon before making a decision. The recorded sound is excellent and the pianist splendid.

Göran Forsling

I like a lot of what Mammel is doing but he lessens the impact of the songs by making them seem smaller than they are.