Classical CD Reviews

LISZT: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2 – Angelika Kirchschlager, mezzo-sop./ Julius Drake, piano – Hyperion

Volume 2 spins around in fine form with Angelika Kirchschlager sounding just fine.

Published on September 17, 2012

LISZT: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2 – Angelika Kirchschlager, mezzo-sop./ Julius Drake, piano – Hyperion

LISZT: The Complete Songs, Volume 2 – Angelika Kirchschlager, mezzo-soprano/ Julius Drake, piano – Hyperion CDA67934, 62:47 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

Of all the romantic song composers, Liszt is probably the most ignored, though it is also true that, besides Schubert—maybe—he also spent the most time rewriting and rethinking these pieces. It is true that Liszt’s songs, which he set in no fewer than six different languages, show up sporadically on recitals, usually in a group of two or three, and usually some of his more famous songs, like “Angiolin dal biondo crin”, and settings of Nordmann (such as “Kling leise, mein Lied”). Aside from those types, most singers don’t keep more than 10-15 Liszt songs in their repertory.

Hopefully this new Hyperion series headed up by pianist Julius Drake and co-sponsored by Hyperion house-pianist and resident Liszt expert Leslie Howard should prove invaluable to setting the Lisztian record straight. This is actually volume 2, the first volume taken by tenor Matthew Polenzani and getting raves all over the world. Polenzani is a terrific tenor, and his overt and extrovert personality seems perfect for the music assigned him in volume 1, many of Liszt’s most exciting and spectacular pieces. Here the realm of pure poetics sets in, and we get songs that span his career, from early pieces that seem almost too careful not to tread on the texts, to works of his last years that dissect meaning almost to the point of mysticism. I think that Angelika Kirchschlager has the harder of the two recitals in terms of sheer interpretation; her voice must straddle many emotional pommel horses, and even those who complain of her sometimes “weak” lower voice will be surprised at how well she renders Liszt’s requirements, and how well he writes for a low soprano voice. One must also be a little surprised at the version choices on this disc. While many people suggest that the composer’s first thoughts were his more effective ones, there is no doubt that he thought and re-thought this music, and most of the selections here represent the second or third version. I’ll not go into why—Susan Youen’s excellent notes will describe it all for you in detail, song by song.

Liszt penned over 100 songs, over 200 if you count the revisions! We will see how far Hyperion carries this, but it’s off to a fine start.


1 Der du von dem Himmel bist S279  First version

2 Ihr Glocken von Marling S328

3 Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam S309   First setting, first version

4 Vergiftet sind meine Lieder S289   Third version

5 Freudvoll und leidvoll S280   First setting, second version

6 Die drei Zigeuner S320 First version  Drei Zigeuner fand ich einmal

7 Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh’ S306 Third version

8 J’ai perdu ma force et ma vie S327

9 Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher S293 Third version  Mon Dieu! J’étais une bergère, quand

10 Es war ein König in Thule S278 Second version  Muttergottes-Sträusslein zum Mai-Monate S316

11 No 1: Das Veilchen  Spende, Veilchen, deine Düfte

12 No 2: Die Schlüsselblumen  Dort am grünen Hügel glänzen

13 Und sprich S329  Sieh auf dem Meer den Glanz

14 Ihr Auge S310 Second version  Nimm einen Strahl der Sonne

15 Im Rhein, im schönen Strome S272 Second version

16 Es muss ein Wunderbares sein S314

17 La perla S326 Second version  Sono del mare bianca la figlia

18 Der du von dem Himmel bist S279 Third version

—Steven Ritter

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