ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
Franz Liszt - Complete Songs Vol. 1


FRANZ LISZT - The Complete Songs Vol. 1 - Matthew Polenzani (Tenor) - Julius Drake (Piano) - 034571177823 - Released: November 2010 - Hyperion CDA67782

HYPERION Records are at it again! Doing what they do best. Setting out on a project to record the complete works of a composer in a specific genre or category. This time around, to celebrate his bicentenary in 2011, they have launched on a journey to collect and record the complete songs of Franz Liszt. With only a few of his songs scattered here and there on various lieder collections, it will be nice to have them all assembled together into one set of recordings.

Since romanticism was first and foremost a literary movement, it was not unusual for composers of Liszt's stature to set some of their music to text and poetry, especially if the text orbited around their own philosophical ideals. And these, unlike the Schubert method of trying to impose a beautiful melody to everything regardless of the subject matter, aim to reflect the text's inherent and deeper meaning more freely, by permeating the music with more emotional clout, be it sentimental, sad or heroic. For example, the Lieder aus Schillers Wilhelm Tell (Songs on Schiller's William Tell) are full of bold and heroic gestures and ideals, including echoes in the piano part from the 'Chapelle de Guillaume Tell' segment of the 'Années de Pelerinage Suisse'. And by the simple fact of being Liszt creations, it goes without saying that the piano accompaniment to all these songs is not just plain wallpaper in the background, but rather the instigator of the dramatic development of each song, and provides all of the harmonic colors necessary to support the vocal line. The composer himself did not seem overly confident as to the potential of these songs as he once stated: "If a few singers could be found, who would boldly venture to sing songs by the notorious non-composer Franz Liszt, they would probably find a public for them." A statement I find totally absurd, as these could stand as some of the best examples of 19th century song.

1 - Kling leise, mein Lied, S301 First version
2 - In Liebeslust, S318
3 - Wie singt die Lerche schön, S312 Second version
4 - Die stille Wasserrose, S321
5 - Lieder aus Schillers Wilhelm Tell, S292 First version
6 - Der Glückliche, S334
7 - Angiolin dal biondo crin, S269 Third version
8 - Tre Sonetti di Petrarca, S270 First version
9 - Bist du, S277 Second version
10- Es rauschen die Winde, S294 First version
11- Schwebe, schwebe, blaues Auge, S305 Second version
12- Im Rhein, im schönen Strome, S272 First version ossia

A better tenor could not have been chosen for this initial release. Over the last few years, Matthew Polenzani has been thrilling audiences at the Met, and has been compared to Fritz Wunderlich for the beauty of his voice. He can easily change the timbre of his voice from pure silver to dark bronze, depending on the character of the music at hand, and range from loud heroics to the purest pianissimos. Wait 'til you hear how he delivers the last note in the song Bist du. And who better to provide the important piano part than the actual curator of this new series, pianist Julius Drake, accompanist extraordinaire. If my calculations are accurate, I suspect that this series will comprise 5 to 6 volumes, which should all be sought after by collectors, completists and Liszt fans alike.

Jean-Yves Duperron - December 2010