Adrian Erod

Liszt: The Complete Songs, Vol. 1

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This release by Austrian baritone Adrian Eröd is the first in a series devoted to Liszt's complete songs, undertaken in connection with the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth in 2011. It's a worthwhile project inasmuch as Liszt's songs are among the least-known aspects of his output, and no fewer than five of the songs here, including the limpid title track, are premiere recordings. One is anxious to learn more about some of them, such as the English-language setting of Tennyson's Go not, happy day, or the impressive quasi-dramatic Le juif errant (The Wandering Jew, track 14), but the booklet (in English and German), despite the presence of two separate essays, is almost no help. The two annotators can't even agree on the value of the Liszt song repertory as a whole, with one writing that "Liszt's Lieder are not in fact part of the canon of the masterpieces of musical history," while the other praises them as exemplars of the essence of his art. Both suggest that the songs are crucial to understanding Liszt's early compositional development, which may well be true but isn't relevant to the songs recorded here; most of them date from Liszt's full maturity in the 1840s, and the Tennyson song is a late work from 1879. Perhaps the best summary is to say that if you like Liszt in general, you'll find something of interest in these songs. The piano parts, unsurprisingly, have a sort of parallel existence with the vocalist, and they're given lively renderings by veteran accompanist Charles Spencer. The songs are in German, French, Italian, and English, with a variety of styles to match, but none could be called light, and the three Sonetti di Francesco Petrarca (Sonnets of Petrarch) are small masterpieces, with intricate musical rhymes to match the poetic structure. Baritone Eröd has the versatility to cover the range of song types here; although the center of his range is curiously underpowered, his performances are consistently involving. The super audio sound is perfectly suited to the repertory.

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