Vienna at the turn of the century looked backward to the formal orthodoxies of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and forward to the uncertain freedoms of the coming years, and the intellectual ferment of the times affected music no less than the other creative arts. The composers represented here – Erich Korngold (who was raised in Vienna, though he later emigrated to the US), Gustav Mahler, and his wife Anna – all infused into their music the schadenfreude of their age. This undercurrent of uneasy ambivalence is what is missing from the otherwise intelligent and sympathetic performances of Angelika Kirchschlager, a young Austrian mezzo-soprano who makes her debut with this disc. There are other problems as well: her voice sounds metallic and is shrill at the top (though this may be partly the result of close miking by the Sony engineers); her tone production is not always even, and the generally effective accompaniment by Helmut Deutsch is sometimes too aggressive. It takes a Schwartzkopf or a Fischer-Dieskau to get these songs right, and maybe Kirchschlager's skill and interpretations will improve as she matures. As it is, she doesn't sing badly, and there is enough promise here to suggest that we should keep an eye on her as she develops.
Copyright © 1999, Alexander J. Morin