Franz LISZT (1811 – 1886)
Songs and Sonnets
Tre Sonetti di Petrarca S270:
1. I. Pace non trovo [6:04]
2. II. Benedetto sia ‘l giorno [5:59]
3. III. I’ vidi in terra [6:04]
4. Klinge leise, mein Lied S301 [6:35]
5. Im Rhein, im schönen Strome S272 [2:45]
6. Schwebe, blaues Auge, schwebe S305 [4:47]
7. Hohe Liebe S307 [2:00]
8. Morgens steh’ ich auf und frage S290 [2:29]
9. Die Macht der Musik S302 [10:35]
Marcello Nardis (tenor), Michele Campanella (piano)
rec. December 2010, Montecarotto, Italy
Sung texts enclosed but no translations
The Franz Liszt bicentenary celebrations officially came to an end on 31 December 2011, but as with all good music and literature and art in general its survival and performance should not depend on extra-musical happenings.
The appreciation of Liszt’s music has had its ups and downs and this will probably continue. I hope nevertheless that the efforts of musicians and record companies, resulting in numerous concerts and ditto recordings, have been ‘ear-openers’.
My own interest in his oeuvre was awakened in my late teens when I heard the Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 on the radio. One of the first records I bought when I could afford a record-player was that piece plus another three of the rhapsodies. A collection of his piano music came next but when I tried some of his symphonic poems I found them glaring and vulgar and for quite some time turned my back on his music.
One day, however, I bought ‘Jussi Björling in Song’ and there I was more or less overwhelmed by Es muss ein Wunderbares sein. Not the least vulgar, just ‘Wunderbar’! So I started searching for more and came upon Heddle Nash singing Oh, quand je dors. Again I was enthralled! Since then I have had a special place in my heart for Liszt’s songs … and a somewhat smaller place for his piano music.
Lately I have reviewed some brand new discs with those songs, so naturally I jumped at the opportunity to hear the present one as well. The singer was unknown to me but the pianist has been one of the great Liszt interpreters for many years.
‘Excellent piano playing’ were the first words I jotted down on my pad when I started listening. What does that imply? Technical prowess, a sure sense for dynamics, flexibility in relation to the singer. Campanella is not the ‘Am I too loud?’ type but he knows exactly when to hold back and when to assert. I enjoyed his playing enormously throughout this short disc. 47 minutes is poor value for money these days, even though Brilliant Classics retail in the lower price range.
Mentioning the pianist first when reviewing a song record is a bit odd, some readers may think, and I agree. In fact Marcello Nardis has an enormously impressive CV and is said to be especially well suited to Lieder, having studied with, among others, Peter Schreier. He has no doubt learnt a lot from this master. Having studied these songs – and the lyrics – conscientiously, he has secured a deep understanding of the underlying meaning of the words and he interprets them. His readings are full of intelligent turns of phrase and nuance – and still I couldn’t enjoy his readings very much. So, why not?
The problem is the actual singing, the actual sounds. His tone is often pinched, at mezzo forte and above he is sorely strained and the tone has very little beauty. Also at softer nuances the voice is poorly supported, often ill-tuned and unsteady. It is a shame that so much preparation, so many good intentions, should be so unsuccessfully realized. I wonder whether Mr Nardis had a bad day. And how did the producer react? Was it worth the effort and the expense to release the disc at all?
I have said on more than one occasion that different people react differently to the human voice. Vibrato is one thing that some of us can tolerate more than others. In this case there are a lot of things that don’t work – for me. Readers to whom the programme appeals should try to listen before buying. Maybe they will get a totally different impression. Maybe I am not compatible with the voice of this singer. I do hope that the fault is with me.
Göran Forsling
I do hope that the fault is with me.