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Franz LISZT (1811 – 1886)
The Complete Songs – 4
1. Des Tages laute Stimmen schweigen, S337 (LW N78) (Saar) (1880) [4:02]
2. Lasst mich ruhen, S317 (LW N55) (Hoffmann von Fallersleben) (c 1858) [3:32]
3. Was Liebe sei, S288 (LW N7) (Hagn), first setting (c1843) [0:51]
4. Verlassen, S336 (LW N77) (Michell) (1880) [3:35]
5. Einst, S332 (LW N73) (Bodenstedt) (1878) [0:43]
6. Ich scheide, S319 (LW N58) (Hoffmann von Fallersleben), second version (1860) [5:11]
7. Was Liebe sei, S288 (LW N7) (Hagn), second setting (c1855) [0:57]
8. Die Loreley, S273 (LW N5) (Heine), second version (c1856) [6:53]
9. Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen ass, S297 (LW N34) (Goethe), first setting, second version (c1845) [4:14]
10. Was Liebe sei, S288 (LW N7) (Hagn), third setting (c1878/9) [1:18]
11. Mignons Lied, S275 (LW N8) (Goethe), second version (c1856) [7:00]
12. Sei still, S330 (LW N71) (Schorn) (1877) [3:10]
13. Wieder möcht’ ich dir begegnen, S322 (LW N60) (Cornelius) (1860) [2:55]
14. Blume und Duft, S324 (LW N50) (Hebbel), second version (c1860) [2:49]
15. Die tote Nachtigall, S291 (LW N17) (Kaufmann), second version (1878) [3:36]
16. Il m’aimait tant! S271 (LW N4) (Girardin, née Gay) (c 1842) [5:30]
17. Gebet, S331 (LW N72) (Bodenstedt, after Lermontov) (1878) [4:15]
Sasha Cooke (mezzo), Julius Drake (piano)
rec. All Saints’ Church, East Finchley, London, 4–6 December 2014
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
HYPERION CDA68117 [60:32]

Hyperion’s cycle presenting the complete songs of Franz Liszt started in spectacular style all of five years ago with Matthew Polenzani (review). That was followed by similarly first class readings by Angelika Kirchschlager (review) and Gerald Finley (review), the latter quite recently. Volume 4 is no exception. Sasha Cooke is the possessor of pure voice with a brilliant high register – impressively exhibited in the early Il m’aimait tant! (tr. 16) – and she has secure trills – try Die tote Nachtigall (tr. 15). Technical attributes are just one side of a singer’s capacity and for a Lieder singer the other side is even more important: the ability to communicate the text. This requires: good enunciation, a rich palette of vocal colours, willingness to express the nuances of the music and a general feeling for the style of the music. All these qualities Cooke possesses.

As in the previous issues in this series the present disc also covers songs from Liszt’s whole creative period, from 1842 (Il m’aimait tant!) to 1880 (Des Tages laute Stimmen schweigen and Verlassen). The majority are inward and the late songs invariably point forward to impressionism and beyond. Liszt’s mind was always in progress. The mix from various periods and the inventiveness of the composer, paired with Ms Cooke's expressivity, means that all sense of monotony is avoided.

The aim of Hyperion is to record every single version of all the Liszt songs – and he revised and rewrote a lot of them, many several times and sometimes many years apart. On this disc we can listen to three settings of the short Was Liebe sei. The first is from circa 1843 (tr. 3), the second from circa 1855 (tr. 7) and the third from circa 1878/9 (tr. 10). This makes for interesting comparisons and fascinating insights into a creative mind, but it also poses the question of the order of the songs on each disc, which I discussed in the review of volume 1 and John France discussed in his review of volume two. We both believed that the best way of presenting a project like this would be to exhibit the songs in strict chronological order, thus making it possible for the listener to follow the development of the composer. A survey of all 103 Tchaikovsky songs that I reviewed recently supported that principle, which worked excellently. Other principles could be to group the songs according to poets or contents. That way all the various settings and versions of the same poem would naturally be together. As it is, the only principle applied seems to be that each individual CD should be a musically satisfying programme for continuous listening. The four CDs now available are excellent in that respect. Maybe when the series is finished it will be issued in a chronological box, as was the company’s gigantic Schubert cycle some years ago.

Today I can only report that this fourth volume in the Liszt cycle is every bit as successful as the previous three. It should be an obligatory buy for every song enthusiast.

Göran Forsling



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