Liszt: The Complete Songs

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COMPOSERS: Franz Liszt
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Liszt: The Complete Songs
WORKS: Complete songs, Vol. 2: includes Der du von dem Himmel bist; Ihr Glocken von Marling; Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam; etc
PERFORMER: Angelika Kirchschlager (mezzo-soprano), Julius Drake (piano)


The more one hears of Liszt’s songs, the more one wonders why they have been so rarely performed, or indeed noticed in the abundant literature about the composer. Kirchschlager’s rich, resonant mezzo finds beauties everywhere on this disc, from heights of drama to intimacies of reflection, and at every turn Drake is with her. I particularly like the way they take their time in the more meditative songs, with expressive silences.

Of course not all the 18 songs recorded here are on the same level of inspiration: Joan of Arc at the Stake provokes too many diminished sevenths as well as the only serious French mispronunciation – in ‘Jésus Christ’ the two final consonants should not be sounded. But Liszt responds with true wonder to Goethe’s famous Über allen Gipfeln, and Kirchshchlager is a match for them both with her control of line and verbal colouring. The programming is intelligent, framing the disc with the first and third versions of Der du von Himmel bist, and there are plenty of contrasts. At least two further discs are planned, no doubt providing further evidence of this composer’s profound lyrical and dramatic gifts.


Roger Nichols