Liszt – Freudvoll und leidvoll
3 Sonetti del Petrarca; Die Loreley; Ich möchte hingehn; O lieb, solang du lieben kannst; Der du von dem Himmel bist; Der König von Thule etc
Jonas Kaufmann (tenor), Helmut Deutsch (piano)
Sony Classical 19439892602 80:26 mins
Liszt’s songs are generally not as well known as they deserve to be, and that is despite the efforts of many singers, Jonas Kaufmann among them. The Three Petrarch Sonnets have long infiltrated his recital programmes; ‘Es muss ein Wunderbares sein’ was included on last year’s lockdown album Selige Stunde; and now comes an entire recording devoted to the composer. Petrarch aside, all the settings are of German texts (Goethe prominent among them), and the Sonnets are given in the second version, honed from 1864 onwards. They’re not the only ‘second versions’. Liszt was an inveterate re-worker, sometimes pruning the pianistic exuberance of his first thoughts, sometimes beginning again from scratch. In any event Freudvoll und Leidvoll is a well-chosen anthology, perhaps spurred on by Kaufmann’s longstanding pianist Helmut Deutsch, a ‘Lisztomaniac’ from his teenage years, and author of an eloquent liner note.
Well chosen certainly, but some will find Kaufmann’s sense of scale uncomfortable at times. He rarely resists the temptation to rev to full vocal throttle, so that the Petrarch Sonnets are despatched with the heady weight of the Italian operatic tradition behind them; dramatic, impassioned, but more La Scala Milan than Wigmore Hall. He can rein things in though. The recording ends with a mostly hushed, enrapt account of Goethe’s ‘Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh’, and he almost reinvents himself as a crooner for the first setting of the album’s title track. Both singer and pianist, meanwhile, have a ball with the gypsy touchstones of ‘Die drei Zigeuner’. At its most larger-than-life, a thrilling recording not for the faint-hearted; but it’s also a heart-on-sleeve reminder of Liszt’s abiding versatility.