Imre Széchényi composed throughout his life – even though he really and truly had many other things to do. After diplomatic missions to Rome, Stockholm, Brussels, Paris, and St. Petersburg he represented the interests of the Habsburg monarchy as the Austro-Hungarian ambassador in imperial Berlin. Bismarck’s famous and notorious Alliance of the Three Emperors bears Széchényi’s signature, and he played a significant role at the Berlin Conference on the Congo. His international experience is also reflected in his songs, which on this rewarding new release are now certainly being heard for the first time in very many years. Széchényi grew up at the Vienna court and made remarkable friendships during his journeys: Johann Strauß and Franz Liszt were among the musicians who repeatedly included the diplomat’s works in their concert programs. Strauß dedicated some of his own works to him, and Széchényi joined forces with Liszt to establish a music academy in Budapest. His great love for his native country is also shown in his settings of Hungarian texts, which was not a typical option during those times. In “Le Rosier” the czakan joins the soprano and the piano – surely a performance opportunity for this traditional Hungarian walking-stick flute unique in the whole of music history. Moreover, Széchényi used French, German, and Italian texts as sources for his songs. German romanticism of course plays a great role with poets including Eichendorff, Heine, and Uhland. Széchényi dedicated Schubart’s “Der Gefangene” to a friend imprisoned after the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution – which did not stop the Habsburg emperor from naming him a Knight of the Golden Fleece. Accompanied by Helmut Deutsch on the venerable “Manfred Bürki” Steinway D, Katharina Ruckgaber and Jochen Kupfer once again bring these wonderful songs to life. Whether alone or in a duet, the manifold influences in Széchényi’s musical language distinguished by internationalism invite us to discover familiar things in surprising things. Inquisitive listeners and discriminating music lovers get what they are looking for on this carefully honed Super Audio CD representing recording technology at its finest!
Széchényi, Imre: Songs