Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
The Complete Songs - Vol. 2
1. Der du von dem Himmel bist S279 (LW N10) (Goethe), first version
2. Ihr Glocken von Marling S328 (LW N69) (Kuh), (1874) [2:35]
3. Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam S309 (LW N36) (Heine), first setting,
first version (1845-60) [2:35]
4. Vergiftet sind meine Lieder S289 (LW N29) (Heine), third version
5. Freudvoll und leidvoll S280 (LW N23) (Goethe), first setting,
second version (1849)[3:02]
6. Die drei Zigeuner S320 (LW N62) (Lenau), first version (1860)
7. Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh: S306 (LW N46) (Goethe), third
version (1859) [3:32]
8. J:ai Perdue ma force et ma vie S327 (LW N68) (Musset) (1872)
9. Jeanne d:Arc au bûcher S293 (LW N37) (Dumas), third version
10. Es war ein König in Thule S278 (LW N9) (Goethe), second
version (1856) [3:19]
Muttergottes-Sträusslein zum Mai-Monate S316 (LW N54) (Müller)
11. Das Veilchen [3:49]
12. Die Schlüsselblumen [2:29]
13. Und sprich S329 (LW N70) (Biegeleben) (1875, rev 1878-9) [2:47]
14. Ihr Auge S310 (LW N20) (Herossshon), second version (1843-9)
15. Im Rhein, im schönen Strome S272 (LW N3) (Heine) second
version (1855) [3:17]
16. Es muss ein Wunderbares sein S314 (LW N49) (Redwitz) (1852)
17. La perla S326 (LW N67) (Hohenlohe-Waldenberg), second version
18. Der du von dem Himmel bist S279 (LW N10) (Goethe), third version
Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo), Julius Drake (piano)
rec. Potton Hall, Dunwich, Suffolk, 11-13 October 2011
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
HYPERION CDA67934 [62:47]
Franz Liszt occupies a rather strange place in the musical pantheon. For one
thing, he dropped into common parlance as an element of Cockney
rhyming slang - ‘Brahms and…’ For another,
he has gained a reputation for being a romantic composer having
all the attributes of that designation - long flowing locks,
a complex personality, an adventurous spirit and a penchant
for composing frighteningly difficult pieces of music. Yet ask
the average ‘music-lover’ to name a piece of his
music and they would be stumped - at least after suggesting
two or three ‘pot-boilers’.
He is generally considered as a composer for piano. The Arkiv
CD catalogue shows that twelve of the thirteen best-selling
pieces involve the piano. Far and away, the most popular work
is the beautiful, but dreadfully hackneyed ‘Liebesträume’,
with an unbelievable 242 recordings currently available. However
equally astonishing is the fact the there are 210 versions of
the great Piano Sonata in B minor currently available - and
that did surprise me. For the rest, other favourites includes
the Consolation No.3 in D flat major, the two piano concertos,
Un sospiro and the Hungarian Rhapsody in C sharp minor.
The odd man out is the 101 recordings of the fine orchestral
score, Les Preludes.
All this shows that appreciation of Liszt is very uneven. When
one then considers the choral and chamber music, the results
show comparatively few recordings. Therefore, it is hardly surprising
that when the listener turns to the songs, they are completely
This is not to say that they are rare or non-existent. Göran
Forsling, reviewing Volume
1 of this Hyperion ‘complete’ edition on MusicWeb
International, noted that he ‘has quite a few LPs and
CDs, entirely or partly devoted to this repertoire.’ Arkiv
would certainly suggest that many songs are available on compilations
and recitals. However, Forsling goes on to say that, he has
no knowledge of any other recording company embarking on a ‘complete’
edition of every song in the catalogue.
A study of the Liszt catalogue shows songs running from the
early Angiolin dal biondo crin (1839) through to the
Tolstoy setting Ne brani menya, moy drug from the last
year of the composer’s life. There would appear to be
some 75 songs in total. The situation becomes much more complicated,
however, when the many revisions and new versions are taken
into account. This pushes the number to well over a hundred.
The track-listing for this disc suggests that Hyperion intend
to do just what it says and produce a recording of every song
and every version. I guess this will extend the series to five
or six CDs.
Franz Liszt’s position in the history of song composition
is infinitely more important than this comparative neglect would
suggest. These songs lie on a trajectory from Schubert and Schumann
to Richard Strauss and Hugo Wolf. Liszt’s main contribution
was to have added the sense of the dramatic to what before had
been a concentration almost (but not entirely) on the lyrical.
Another innovation was the development of the accompaniment
away from the rhythmic figures of Schubert to that of a motif
developed with considerable ingenuity by ‘alterations
and metamorphoses without ever losing its character’.
Added to this are the ‘trademark harmonic and tonal experimentation’
which was part of the composer’s attempt at ‘imagining
the music of the future’.
One of the problems with any account of Liszt’s songs
is the above-noted large number of revisions and versions that
are scattered throughout the catalogue. Susan Youens in her
liner-notes suggests that this urge to revise and re-compose
was greater ‘than any other nineteenth century song composer
except Schubert’. This process is highlighted with the
first and last tracks on this CD. The Goethe song Der du
von dem Himmel bist (You who come from heaven) was originally
conceived in 1842. However, there are three extant subsequent
versions of this song including the present one from 1860. The
second version was completed at a date unknown and the composer
was working on a fourth, which was left incomplete at his death.
The differences between the 1842 and the 1860 versions are clear.
The former is extrovert, overblown, and richly conceived whereas
the latter has a much more Spartan texture and is largely reflective.
Both are excellent settings of the text.
It is not my intention to examine each song: just to mention
a few personal highlights. However, I do note that a wide range
of poets and authors is represented here including the inevitable
Goethe and Heine. The French authors, Alexandre Dumas and Henri
Musset have contributed poems for two fine songs.
I love Es muss ein Wunderbares sein which also happens
to be one of the composer’s most ‘popular’
songs. Youens notes the relative simplicity and lack of ‘pyrotechnics.’
It is beautifully constructed and characterised by a dreamy,
poetical quality. ‘La Perla’, which is the only
Italian text on this CD, may have been composed for the noblewoman
Thérèse von Hohenlohe-Waldenberg (1817-1895) who
wrote the poem. It is one of the longer and more dramatic items
on this CD. The words describe the life and death of a ‘pearl’
born in a mussel shell to its final adornment of a lady - ‘the
rape of Nature to satisfy human vanity’. Im Rhein,
im schönen Strome is a beautiful setting of a text
by Heine. The composer ‘paints rippling waters and the
fluttering of angels’ wings.’ The colourful writing
for the piano is virtually impressionistic in its representation
of the reflection of Cologne Cathedral in the waters of the
Perhaps my favourite song is the one derived from Goethe’s
Faust - Es war ein König in Thule (There
was a King in Thule). This tells of the most remote, Northern
kingdom of Thule - the ends of the earth. The poem is contrived
to be like a ballad and is written in suitably archaic language.
The composer’s interpretation of the text follows ‘every
twist and turn’ of the story’.
Volume 1 of this series was sung by the tenor Matthew Polenzani
and this present CD has the glorious voice of Angelika Kirchschlager.
However, I imagine that many (if not all) of these songs could
be sung equally effectively by ‘high’ or ‘low’
I am not sure what the rationale was behind selecting the ‘batting
order’ of these songs. It is certainly not by poet, key,
chronology or subject. I presume that it was devised to make
a satisfying recital. However, that leads me to an interesting
speculation. When a release is ‘complete’ one imagines
that it is aimed at the cognoscenti. That being the case, I
would have thought that chronological order would have been
ideal - to appeal to people’s (and my own) ‘train-spotter’
mentality. However, it does beg the question as to where ‘revisions’
and ‘versions’ would be slotted in - with the original
or by year?
The quality of this CD is stunning from every point of view.
I mentioned the beautiful voice of Angelika Kirchschlager; she
has the ability to make the hairs on the nape of my neck rise.
Her achievements cross the whole range of classical music -
however she does specialise in ‘lieder’ including
those of Wolf, Schumann, Schubert and Mendelssohn. Furthermore,
she has addressed the vocal music of composers as diverse as
Bach, Korngold and Kurt Weill. Kirchschlager has recently recorded
Volume 1 of the ‘Complete Songs of Johannes Brahms’
for Hyperion. Julius Drake makes a sensitive accompanist who
is perfectly at home with both the exuberant and complex piano
parts as well as the more thoughtful. It seems almost redundant
to note that the sound quality and ambience of this recording
The liner-notes written by Susan Youens are essential reading
and will eventually make up an important essay on all Liszt’s
songs when the cycle is complete. Hyperion has included the
text of all the songs along with good translations.
This is a CD that I can heartily recommend. I admit to it being
outwith my usual interests of ‘English Song’ nevertheless,
I have always enjoyed the German lieder tradition as well. Liszt’s
songs have been a closed book to me over the years. However,
I imagine that I am not the only person who will find the present
CD a huge revelation.