After leaving Hungary for Vienna at the age of 11, Liszt spent his remaining 60-odd years away from home, so he was a prime candidate for this musical travelogue, following on the success of the album Britten Abroad. A further incentive lies in the fact that Liszt’s songs are very little known, possible, as Iain Burnside says. Because ‘he stood outside the worlds of both French melodie and German Lieder’.
The 20 songs recorded here cover a vast range of language and expression, from the extraordinary wildness and drama of ‘Gastibelza’ to the rapt stillness of ‘Über allen Gipfeln ist Ruh’. Burnside is a faultless guide along this journey, exhibiting power when required but never forcing either tone or pace; and his pianissimo playing reminds me of Gerald Moore’s—I can think of no greater compliment. The singing too is exemplary, with Rebecca Evans’s floated high notes things of exquisite beauty. Matthew Rose, though recorded rather more distantly than his colleagues, takes every dramatic opportunity by the scruff, while Andrew Kennedy registers every shift of mood (the tiny ‘Morgens steh’ ich’ is a particular gem). I would caution only over his English ‘o’s—not quite ‘goo not, happy day’, but ‘cloose’. A tiny point, though, among so many delights.