, June 2001
"This is Volume 17 - no less - of Naxos's project to record the complete piano music of Franz Liszt. There are nineteen transcriptions of Schubert songs collected here, some grouped under cyclic headings, while others are from individual songs, including some of Schubert's finest.
"Liszt had an extraordinary talent for transcribing music from other genres for the piano, as witnessed by his many operatic transcriptions. But he is equally at home in the more intimate context of the 'song without words', as these pieces can strictly be described. So successful is he, in fact, that the music seems entirely natural in its new context, the vocal lines integrated with astonishing ease and artistry. Of course the effectiveness of the music, at once engaging and melodically distinguished, is a tribute to Schubert at least as much as to Liszt.
"The opening sequence of six pieces share the common bond of deriving from songs set to poems by one of Schubert's favourite poets, Wilhelm Muller. Liszt, however, makes no attempt to transcribe the complete Schone Mullerin set, making up his own group of six instead. The effect is wholly convincing, forming a balanced sweep with an ebb and flow of approach that makes the experience highly effective from the listener's point of view. In fact the effect created is not unlike Schumann's approach in works like Carnaval, in which a unified whole is created out of a sequence of shorter items.
"Valerie Tryon used to be better known in Britain a few years ago, before she emigrated across the Atlantic. Her return is welcome, for she plays very skilfully, and all the pieces are nicely shaped, with a keen attention to detail and a sensitive response to phrasing...
"The transcriptions are constantly fascinating, particularly for those who know the original songs. Liszt's second version of the famous song known as The Trout, for example, begins with an atmospheric and gloriously watery prelude, before settling into the familiar tune with its simple rhythmic accompaniment. And the collection is brought to a close with a stirring rendition of another favourite, The Earl King.
"It is a tribute to Valerie Tryon, and of course to Liszt too, that these transcriptions stand so well in their own right. Keith Anderson's notes are helpful in explaining the intriguing range of sources, as well as in introducing the music."