These are not art songs but rather Schoenberg's attempt to make some extra money while composing for the Überbrettl, the cabaret where he conducted the house band in 1901. Though they do not feature the hearty blast or seamy sensuality of the genre's traditional manifestations, they do hover between the lively arts and Lieder in a way that makes them a fascinating symptom of compromise. Jessye Norman wonderfully fleshes this odd aesthetic nether region out in this recording; her rich tone is sexy, fleshy, and always tendered with the highest respect for the composer. James Levine's piano accompaniment is naturally up to par, and the final song, Nachtwandler (the only one Schoenberg orchestrated) is performed with equally creditable professionalism. Brettl-Lieder provides insights into musical issues of the day while being entertaining in their own right, and this recording features excellent sound engineering. This 1990 is a delightful American rendition that is certainly worth hearing and will be indispensable for those interested in the history of cabaret.
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AllMusic Review by John Keillor
|Brettl-Lieder (Cabaret Songs), for voice & piano|