Though they're substantial in number, the songs of Franz Liszt rarely feature in recital programmes and so this projected complete edition is all the more welcome. Gerald Finley offers 17 items in the third volume, singing expertly in four languages: German, French, Italian and English.
The standard of the songs themselves is impressively high—only one, the rather flatly rhetorical Weimars Toten which pays homage to the city's distinguished literary figures, disappoints. Elsewhere, as Susan Youens's notes point out, the songs are 'a laboratory for experiment for 'music of the future'', and in terms of harmony and the use of open endings to individual songs they mark out new and original territory. The piano writing, too, is regularly extraordinary—virtuosic in the Three Petrarch Sonnets and the Victor Hugo setting Gastibelza, an offbeat bolero, while later on in the composer's creative life they're often notably spare in texture. Julius Drake shines in all of them.
So, too, does Finley, with his sensitivity to the fore in the fine Heine settings, bringing emotional engagement and a measure of Italianate warmth to the comparatively well-known Petrarch settings, telling the story of Die Fischerstochter with skills and effect, making a striking miniature of Und wir dachten der Toten and giving a masterly performance of Die Vätergruft. In excellent sound the whole adds up to a delightful sequence of discoveries.