Franz Liszt and his "Songs of immense and staggering beauty" 1by Mary Dibbern
This edition of songs by Franz Liszt (1811-1886) includes all of the scores recorded by bassJared Schwartz and pianist Mary Dibbern for the CD Franz Liszt: Songs for Bass Voice andPiano, Toccata Classics 0441, released October 2017. This is the first CD of songs by thecomposer with a selection for bass voice with all but one song transposed to fit thelow-voice range. A complete version of the following excerpted notes, along with thetranslations of the poems into English, is included in the CD booklet.
Franz Liszt was the only major 19th-century composer to compose songs on poems in sixlanguages: German, French, Italian, Hungarian, Russian, and English. These musicalsettings never conformed to the expected musical styles of his epoch´s German Lied, nor tothose of the French mélodie . Even in setting poets that are often found in those repertoires,Liszt sought out a sincere musical response to each text instead of following the expectedstructural or harmonic expression. "In responding to the spirit of German and French poetryhe united the romantic souls of the two nations. His style was just like him, cosmopolitanand universal." 7 The Liszt scholar Humphrey Searle writes that Liszt "began to see every 2piece as the musical expression of a certain idea or state of mind, sometimes derived fromliterature or art, sometimes from experience." Liszt often created not only rewrites, but 3several versions of each song, from changing only a handful of notes to altering the entirestructure of a piece decades later (as was the case in his two settings of three Petrarchsonnets).
The selections in this edition and on the CD are the first recorded performances ofany of his voice-piano music by a bass voice, and all but one are transpositions tolow-voice keys. The songs represent four of the six languages that Liszt set: German (7),French (3), Italian (1), and English (1). They are also examples of the stylistic and dramaticvariety of three distinct periods that musicologists often use to describe Liszt´s musicalproduction. We chose three songs from the Early Period (1838-1847) that includes theyears of his rising fame as a piano virtuoso, five from the Weimar Period (1848-1858), whenhe abruptly left the concert stage to accept the post of Kappelmeister in the Weimar court,and finally, four from the Last Period (1870-1886), which began after Liszt left Weimar andtook minor orders in the Catholic church. Throughout his career, Liszt wrote complex vocalmusic with a two-octave ambitus and dynamics ranging from the most delicate ppp to aroaring ff . His songs transformed the previously limited vocal tessaturas and range ofdynamics found in the music of his contemporaries´ 19th-century chamber music salons.