Auf Flügeln Des Gesanges: Romantic Songs and Transcriptions
Works by Schubert, Liszt, R Schumann, Mendelssohn, Wolf, et al
Christoph Prégardien (tenor), Cyprien Katsaris (piano)
Challenge Classics CC72787 72:26 mins
Christoph Prégardien can always be relied upon to approach art song thoughtfully and adventurously. Responding to his pianist Cyprien Katsaris’s idea, this recital pairs much-loved songs by Schubert, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt, Wagner, Wolf, Strauss, Brahms and Kircher with their transcriptions by (again) Liszt and Kirchner (who earned much of his income from making arrangements), Godowsky, Clara Schumann, August Stradal, Bruno Hinze-Reinhold, Walter Gieseking, Eduard Schütt and Gerald Moore.
A nice idea, but does it work? Yes – but not consistently. Fidelity and restraint are not virtues in the world of transcription. We learn nothing from Liszt’s staid rendition of Clara Schumann’s exquisite ‘Geheimes Flüstern’, nor from Stradal’s dutiful plod through Wagner’s ‘Träume’; Gieseking’s ‘free arrangement’ of Strauss’s glorious ‘Freundliche Vision’ is also strikingly unfree. But the loss of the poetry and the singing voice is compensated for in Schütt’s playful transcription-paraphrase of Brahms’s ‘Vergebliches Ständchen’ and Godowsky’s upscaled version of Schubert’s ‘Liebesbotschaft’. These suit Katsaris’s flamboyant pianism and tell us something new. Still, one wonders why Katsaris didn’t follow his famous predecessors and use his own formidable technical skills to create transcriptions of his own. Prégardien sounds like he’s in his element, striding assuredly through this hit parade and savouring each word. But Katsaris does not always have the lightness and sense of fantasy to rescue the heavier-handed or slavish transcriptions from their redundancy. The booklet does not include English translations of the texts.