Timothy Fallon / Ammiel Bushakevitz

Liszt: 15 Songs

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Liszt wrote songs during most phases of his career and plainly found them important, revising some of them more than once. American tenor Timothy Fallon touches on several gems here and gives them their due. It's hard to say why the Liszt songs as a group aren't better known. Perhaps it's that they served various purposes and aren't closely tied to a single creative impulse the way those of Schubert and even Schumann are. The ones on this album are in Italian, German, French, and even English, and they're entirely disparate in mood. Fallon handles the variety well, with a quiet, elegant top that would have been quite appropriate in a 19th-century recital room. The songs are evocative of various Lisztian concerns, and a multimedia recital with them might well be absorbing. The Tre Sonetti di Petrarca at the beginning come from Liszt's extended road trip with the Countess Marie d'Agoult and are 19th-century reflections on the heritage of romantic love, heated up by a pair that was experiencing it at the time. The other triptych, the Drei Lieder aus Schillers Wilhelm Tell, evokes Liszt the revolutionary who found things touch and go around the time of the 1848 revolutions. Sample perhaps Go Not, Happy Day, to a text by Tennyson; composed in 1879 and Liszt's only song in English, it's a great and not especially well-known example of Liszt's late style, with unexpected silences and unorthodox harmonic progressions. The songs are linked together by, among other things, the fact that most of them give the piano plenty to do (unsurprisingly enough), and collectively they offer a fresh lens into Liszt's career. Highly recommended.

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