Songs for Tenor and Piano

Franz Liszt


World Premiere Recordings



“Tenor Benjamin Brecher and pianist Robert Koenig have created a sweet jewel of a CD for MSR Classics... [Brecher sings with] clear diction and delicacy in voicing, clean high notes with perfect intonation... Koenig’s keyboard collaborations [bring] moods and images vividly to life... Brecher’s voice is full and expressive throughout... superbly realized by both artists – magnificent.”
Daniel Kepl, Performing Arts Review [July 2019]
“These songs receive sterling perfor­mances from tenor Benjamin Brecher, who possesses the vocal heft, sound technique, and expressive generosity that these songs demand. His sound is unfailingly lovely at every dynamic level, and he soars to even the high­est climaxes with radiant ease. One cannot even think about performing the songs of Liszt without a superb pianist as partner. Robert Koenig plays every one of these songs with stunning technical perfection and un­erring stylistic instinct... Koenig plays [Die tote Nachtigall] with the kind of tender restraint that leaves one scarcely able to breathe, and Brecher responds in kind with some of his loveliest and most sensitive singing.”
Gregory Berg, NATS Journal [Fall 2017]
“this disc will be of great interest to Liszt enthusiasts... The documentation is admirable. Dr. Vitalino writes at length on every song in the order they are played, and the texts are printed in the booklet with line by line translations... His singing on this disc is polished and nuanced... As Benjamin Brecher sings [Quand tu chantes bercee] it should tempt many singers to adopt it... [Jeanne d’Arc] is attacked wholeheartedly and intensely by Brecher and one must admire his stamina... His experienced accompanist delivers excellent support and the recording is first-class... Liszt aficionados will need this.”
Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International [April 2017]
“Brecher's experience in the bel canto repertory shows in clean lines and clear diction...[he has] a finely shaded mezza voce when singing softly... there is much to enjoy... [Koenig's] playing is nicely foused, lapidary and un-showy””
Tim Ashley, Gramophone [March 2017]
“This is a beautiful issue, full of music that encompasses a wide range of human emotions, and yet there is an aura of serenity and resignation throughout. Sympathetically supported by pianist Robert Koenig, tenor Benjamin Brecher's sensitive performances are full of dramatic nuances and range of colour, and his breadth of phrasing and luxurious tone constantly bring rich rewards. A disc well worth seeking out, if only for the rareness of the music it contains. Atmospheric sound quality and informative annotations complete a most enterprising and fascinating release.”
Gerald Fenech, Music & Vision [February 2017]
[ * * * * ] “[Liszt’s songs] have considerable power and a willingness – shown also in his other music – to tackle some more-complex subjects than those that attracted other composers of the time. All this is abundantly clear on a fascinating MSR Classics release of a dozen Liszt songs for tenor and piano – songs so infrequently heard that half of these are world première recordings... Benjamin Brecher and Robert Koenig bring a sense of freshness and emotional involvement that is striking and thoroughly apt... Brecher and Koenig deliver wholehearted performances that fans of Lieder in general and Liszt in particular will surely welcome.”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [January 2017]
Nineteenth-century art songs continue to serve as staple repertoire well into the twentyfirst century. Although notable composers such as Schubert, Schumann, Brahms and Wolf remain at the forefront of concerts and music scholarship, it is unfortunate that their contemporaries linger on the outskirts of the genre. This is perhaps most surprising when one considers musicians’ general neglect of Franz Liszt’s Lieder output. Despite Liszt’s recognition as one of the most influential musicians of the Romantic Era, his 127 songs remain largely overlooked. Forgotten Liszt aims to rectify this situation. Other than three virtuosic Petrarch Sonnets, most of the works on this album have never been recorded and have likely not been performed in the twentieth or twenty-first centuries. The rarity of these works is largely due to the fact that modern scores for the music are unavailable, often existing only as first edition prints dating from the mid- nineteenth century. These pieces include Angiolin dal biondo crin, Die Loreley, Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher and Vergiftet sind meine Lieder. Other works are only available as reproductions in book appendixes or scholarly articles (Elégie and Quand tu chantes bercée). One posthumous work, Wenn die letzten Sterne bliechen, didn’t see publication until 2007.

Although these songs have generally received little attention, they were quite important to Liszt. Sadly, as early as 1859 he foretold the neglect these pieces would face. In writing to a friend, Liszt commented, “if a few singers could be found, not of the raw and superficial kind, who would boldly venture to sing songs by the notorious non-composer, Franz Liszt, they would probably find a public for them.” The significance of Forgotten Liszt proves that Liszt’s prediction endures a century-and-a-half later.

My interest in Liszt’s art songs began during my graduate study. During my research I discovered that some songs remained out-of-print or unpublished entirely, and had consequently never been recorded. I subsequently brought these “forgotten” songs to the attention of music faculty at UCSB, of which members Benjamin Brecher and Robert Koenig expressed great interest in collaborating on a recording project, thus giving my research a performance life. We were fortunate to have had Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West as a venue in which to make the recordings. The success of this project is the result, then, of a confluence of factors, including enthusiastic scholarship, brilliant artistry and the support of several individuals and institutions.”
Dr. Michael Vitalino Crane School of Music

Tenor Benjamin Brecher has gained great acclaim for his performances on the opera and concert stages. A specialist in the lyric tenor repertoire, he has performed more than 50 operatic roles. A native of Ohio, he grew up in a music loving home. Although he began his training in classical guitar and trumpet, as a music major at Bowling Green State University he discovered singing to be his path, and began participating in operatic apprentice programs around the country. At Central City Opera, he was mentored by conductor John Moriarty, who invited him to the New England Conservatory where he earned a master’s degree under Edward Zambara. Brecher followed him to The Juilliard School, where he joined the Juilliard Opera Center. After making his professional debut with Opera Theatre of St. Louis in Britten’s Billy Budd, he began winning engagements in the United States and abroad. He has performed numerous roles with The New York City Opera, appearing in their productions of Il Viaggio a Reims, The Barber of Seville, The Magic Flute, L’enfant et les sortilèges, Carmen, and the New York premiere of Central Park. Other operatic engagements include The Merry Widow with the Palm Beach Opera; La sonnambula, I Capuleti e I Montecchi and Otello with Opera Orchestra of New York; Candide and Il Viaggio a Reims in Italy; L’Italiana in Algeri in Canada, France and Israel; and Don Pasquale, Don Giovanni, Lucia di Lammermoor and Lakmé. Additional engagements include performances with the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia; Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra; and Handel’s Messiah, Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Orff ’s Carmina Burana. In 2000, Brecher performed as soloist in A Celtic Celebration with the Indianapolis Symphony, and went on to perform that concert with more than 40 orchestras in North America. An active recording artist, Brecher can be heard on more than a dozen releases, including The Barber of Seville with the Franz Liszt Chamber Orchestra, Candide with Opera Roma, and two PBS concerts from Carnegie Hall: Ira Gershwin at 100 and The Music of Lerner and Lowe. Brecher is currently an Associate Professor of Voice at University of California, Santa Barbara.

Pianist Robert Koenig is a sought-after collaborative pianist and chamber musician, performing regularly in major music centers with today’s renowned musicians. Recent engagements include performances at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Suntory Hall, the Concertgebuow, the Louvre and Royal Festival Hall in London. He has collaborated with Sarah Chang, Hilary Hahn, Pamela Frank, Zuill Bailey, Sara Sant’Ambrogio, Roberto Diaz, Elmar Oliveira, Miro String Quartet and St. Lawrence String Quartet. Koenig has appeared at numerous festivals, including Aspen, Ravinia, Banff, Saratoga, Caramoor and Mostly Mozart as well as the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, El Paso Pro Musica, Chamber Music Northwest, West Branch International Festival and Academy and Campos do Jordao Festival. He is frequently heard on radio and television, including Good Morning America and CBS This Morning. Koenig was staff pianist at The Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music, and was Professor of Piano and Piano Chamber Music at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. With the assistance of their Center for Research, Koenig commissioned Lowell Liebermann to compose a trio for flute, cello and piano. He subsequently became Professor and Head of the Collaborative Piano Program at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Koenig has recorded for the Artek, Ambassador, Biddulph, Cedille, CRI, Decca, Eroica and Naxos labels. His CD of transcriptions for viola and piano by William Primrose with violist Roberto Diaz received a Grammy nomination for Best Instrumental Soloist Performance. Born in Saskatchewan, Koenig began his formal training at the Vancouver Academy of Music and later at the Banff School and the Academie Musicale di Chigiana in Italy. He has received awards from the Canadian government, including a Canada Council Project Grant. Koenig earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Accompanying at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied piano and chamber music.
FRANZ LISZT (1811-1886)
Angiolin dal biondo crin (1st version) | Cesare Bocella

Die Lorelei (1st version) | Heinrich Heine

La Loreley (3rd version) | Heinrich Heine; French trans. Gustave Samzeuilh

Pace non trovo
Benedetto sia ’l giorni
I’vidi in terra angelici costume

Elégie | Etienne Monnier

Quand tu chantes bercée | Victor Hugo

Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher (1st version) | Alexandre Dumas

Wenn die letzten Sterne bleichen (op. posth.) | anonymous

Vergiftet sind meine Lieder (1st version) | Heinrich Heine

Die tote Nachtigall | Philipp Kaufmann

MSR Classics