the Whole Note, 29 October 2021
Written by Janos Gardonyi
Liszt – Freudvoll und Leidvoll
Just looking at the photography in the booklet that comes with this wonderful new release from Sony Classical, I was immediately struck by the jolly good mood, frolichkeit and friendliness between the two artists, world-famous German heldentenor Jonas Kaufmann and his accompanist Helmut Deutsch, pianist, Liszt expert and aficionado. This good spirit translates into a happy collaboration shining throughout this record.

Liszt wrote some 90 songs that are difficult to sing, as Liszt treated the voice as he treated the piano: mercilessly extending it to two octaves, sudden fortissimo outbursts, key changes and the like. Kaufmann selected 20 for this release with a coherent title – Freudvoll und Liedvoll meaning joyful and sorrowful – referring mainly to love, because love is indeed sometimes very happy and sometimes very sad as anyone who’s ever been in love knows. And indeed, the most beautiful song, I think, is O lieb, solang du lieben kannst (Love as long as you can) with the famous melody of Liebestraum No.3. Kaufmann’s voice is amazingly flexible to cope with mood changes: from heroic fortissimo to soft and sweet intonation, like the way he caresses the words Freudvoll und Leidvoll.

The spirit of love is indeed manifest in the centrepiece of this collection, the three Petrarch Sonnets. These are written in Italian as opposed to all the other songs which are in German, with unparalleled melodic richness.

A joyful moment for me, and a nice surprise, was the sudden outburst of a glorious Hungarian melody in the song: Die drei Zigeuner, played with gusto by Helmut Deutsch. He is marvellous throughout, playing with ease Liszt’s very difficult accompaniments.

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