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Hyperion Records

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Photograph of Matthew Polenzani by Sim Canetty-Clarke (b?)
Track(s) taken from CDA67782
Recording details: February 2010
All Saints' Church, East Finchley, London, United Kingdom
Produced by Mark Brown
Engineered by Julian Millard
Release date: November 2010
Total duration: 19 minutes 12 seconds

'Polenzani is evidently a tenor of the finest quality: a lyric voice, sweet and ingratiating, with the capacity to ring out excitingly, gloriously easy on high but with a perfectly adequate body to the tone in its middle and lower registers. He is firm and even, pleasingly expressive … he sings with warmth, intelligence and conviction, matching the superb playing of his pianist Julius Drake' (Gramophone)

'Polenzani remains an extraordinarily communicative Lieder singer, possessed of an agile and flexible voice of tremendous versatility. In the most intimate of these settings, as well as in the quasi-operatic ones, Polenzani and Drake create performances that are at once thoughtful, richly atmospheric and never less than compelling … this auspicious inauguration of the series whets the appetite for more' (International Record Review)

'This stupendous disc, issued ahead of the Liszt bicentenary next year, marks the start of Hyperion's survey of his complete songs, still a grey area for many despite past attempts by major artists such as Brigitte Fassbaender and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau to rehabilitate them … as with so much of his music, their difficulty in performance is to be found in their emotional and expressive extremes. The challenges are more than met here, with Polenzani doing things in songs such as Der Fischerknabe or Pace Non Trovo that you never thought were possible for a human voice, while Drake's intensity is total and unswerving' (The Guardian)

Tre Sonetti di Petrarca, S270 First version
composer
1842/6; LW N14
author of text

Other recordings available for download
Michael Schade (tenor), Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Introduction  EnglishFrançaisDeutsch
The Tre sonetti di Petrarca were the direct result of Liszt’s sojourn in Italy during 1838–9; we learn that he and Marie d’Agoult read Petrarch and Dante together. The origins of the poetry are legendary: on Good Friday, 6 April, 1327, the great fourteenth-century poet Petrarch saw a woman named Laura in the church of Sainte-Claire d’Avignon, and his passion for her is celebrated in the 366 poems of his Rime sparse (Scattered rhymes, later known as Il Canzoniere / The Songbook). The songs—arias in all but name—exist in both a pre-Weimar version for tenor and a later revision for mezzo-soprano or baritone; we hear the virtuosic first version on this disc. The first sonnet, ‘Pace non trovo’, is packed with Petrarch’s characteristic oxymorons, antitheses, and dichotomies (staring without eyes, crying without voice, burning and freezing alike) that bespeak the paradoxes of love. For such imagery, Liszt begins with an agitated succession of his most advanced harmonies followed by extreme contrasts between dramatic-operatic outbursts and ecstatic lyricism, twice bidding the tenor reach for the D flat above high C. In ‘Benedetto sia ’l giorno’, Petrarch calls for multiple blessings on his first sight of Laura, his love for her, and his own thoughts and verses about her. Liszt moves from key to key, benediction to benediction, in his trademark restless, innovative way. ‘I’ vidi in terra angelici costumi’ tells of heavenly angels on earth and earth-shattering beauty in the person of Laura, whose harmonious being fills the air with sweetness. This celestial song, with its breathtaking harmonic shift just before the invocation of ‘Love! wisdom! valour, pity and grief’, ends quietly and reverently.

from notes by Susan Youens © 2010


Other albums featuring this work
'Of ladies and love' (CDA67315)
Of ladies and love
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