The singers’ neglect and the critics’ disparagement of Mendelssohn’s songs seem unjust, as is the passing fashion which has sidelined some of Liszt’s most felicitous transcriptions and elaborations. There was a time when ‘On Wings of Song’ was practically inevitable in any pianist’s repertoire, and ‘Spring Song’, ‘Song of Travel’ and ‘New Love’ would not be out of place in many many a modern recital programme in need of a little gossamer. Heine’s ‘On Wings of Song’ speaks of a song which will bear the lovers in a blissful dream to the lotus flowers by the Ganges. Klingemann’s ‘Sunday Song’ contrasts the loneliness of the poet with the sound of choir and organ and the sight of a bridal procession. Heine’s ‘Song of Travel’ tells of a rider warmed by the thought that his headlong journey on a dark windy night will lead him to his lover’s house. As he rushes up the staircase, spurs ringing, the wind in the oak tells him that he is a dreaming fool. ‘New Love’, again by Heine, asks if the vision of elves, swans and the fairy queen is a sign of new love or of death. Klingemann’s ‘Spring Song’ is a heady hymn to the joy, beauty and warmth of spring, while ‘Winter Song’ is from a Swedish folk poem in which a son is urged to stay at home rather than go out into the dark cold night in search of his sister. Liszt makes this song connect beautifully to the setting of Marianne von Willemer’s second poem entitled ‘Suleika’, which entreats the west wind to take news of the writer’s suffering in separation to her lover.
from notes by Leslie Howard © 1991