Franz Liszt's songs are certainly the least-recorded part of his output. How many, even among his admirers, know that he wrote a song in English, setting a text by Tennyson (track 15)? The Italian-language Three Petrarch Sonnets (tracks 6-8) are among the best known, and they get a nice ardent performance here from Canadian bass-baritone Gerald Finley and accomapanist Julius Drake, who, as one might expect from Liszt, has plenty to do. A unique feature of Hyperion's Liszt song series is that new performers have so far appeared with each installment, and Finley makes a strong case for choosing this one: he's quite versatile, singing effectively in four languages and putting across the sense of the text in each. The German-language pieces are indubitably not the equal of Schubert or Schumann (or, looking the other direction, of Hugo Wolf) in characterization, and many follow the pattern of quasi-declamatory opening followed by warmer tune. But neither are they insensible toward the text, and several, such as the grim Goethe setting Wer nie sein Brot mit Tränen aß (He who never ate his bread with tears, track 5), so different from Schubert's limpid take on the same poem, seem here to deserve more recognition. A more than worthwhile set for Liszt enthusiasts.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Tre sonetti di Petrarca, S 270 (LW N14)|