While it is not often played, Franz Liszt's tidy but tasty output for violin has not been altogether neglected. Endre Granat recorded what was then thought to be the complete cycle for Orion Records in 1975, followed by Barnabás Kelemen in 2000 for Hungaraton; Rachel Barton Pine recorded a selection in 1997 for Dorian that was warmly reviewed at the time. German violinist Friedemann Eichhorn joins this small fraternity with his Franz Liszt: Works for Violin and Piano for Hänssler Classic. All of this music belongs to Liszt's late period except for the glitzy Grand Duo Concertante (1835, revised 1849) and the popularly oriented, Gypsy-accented Die drei Zigeuner (1864), tending toward the reflective, mysterious, and emotionally deep side of the composer. As he enjoyed productive contact with a number of violinists -- including Joseph Joachim and Ede Reményi -- Liszt's violin writing is idiomatic and gracious to the instrument, and his violinist friends likely helped Liszt prepare some of these scores. Eichhorn plays them all quite well, with enthusiasm, a certain amount of panache, and a big, fat romantic tone, as compared to Barton Pine, who utilizes a thinner tone, though is quicker and a little showier, as well. One might quibble that the violin incarnation of La lugubre gondola (ca. 1883) is taken a bit too fast and played with a tad too much force, though it might be marked rather differently from the more familiar piano version of the work; all of Liszt's various versions of this piece represent radically different shapenings of the same basic material.
Accompanist Rolf-Dieter Arens comes awfully close to stealing the show. He has served as the president of the Weimar branch of the Franz Liszt Society since 1999, and his experience and daily contact with Liszt definitely show in his playing. Although Eichhorn has given us recordings on Naxos of Pierre Rode's concertos and Piazzolla in an earlier Hänssler Classic release, Arens' accompaniment is of such authority in these recordings that one might wonder just who is driving the bus. Nevertheless, there is no gold standard in this literature just yet, and the Eichhorn/Arens Franz Liszt: Works for Violin and Piano for Hänssler Classic is certainly a strong contender, offering suitable variety from other recordings of this music and providing considerable listening enjoyment to boot.