Sasha Cook performs Liszt songs

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COMPOSERS: Franz Liszt
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Complete Songs, Vol. 4
PERFORMER: Sasha Cooke (mezzo), Julius Drake (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: Hyperion CDA 68117


Franz Liszt’s greatness as a song composer is still insufficiently recognised, though Hyperion’s ongoing complete edition certainly allows us to explore his output in full. The 17 items in volume four range in date from the early 1840s, during his period as a travelling virtuoso pianist, to a couple dating from 1880, six years before his death at the age of 74.

The selection includes a number of alternative settings. The brief ‘Was Liebe sei’, whose words the famed actress Charlotte von Hagn scribbled down on a fan for Liszt (her lover for a while), he set three times: flirtatiously around 1843, skittishly about 1855 and teasingly in 1878-9. One of the composer’s undoubted masterpieces in the genre, ‘Die Loreley’, is heard in its second version, as are several others songs here: Liszt’s interest in revising and rewriting throughout his life provides a fascinating insight into his creativity. None of this might matter were the performances less good than they are. Previous issues have each focused on different singers, all accompanied by the expert Julius Drake, and here the choice falls on the American mezzo Sasha Cooke, whose even, expressive voice is equal to all technical demands and rises to tremendous intensity for ‘Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen ass’ while offering a deeply considered account of ‘Sei still’.


George Hall