Sony's release of Frances Bourne's first solo album features the British mezzo-soprano singing cabaret songs by German, Czech, and British composers. The majority of songs are by Kurt Weill, several of which were written in French during the composer's Parisian sojourn in the early '30s, including selections from the musical play Marie Galante. Bourne makes the interesting choice of singing all the Weill songs in French translation, even the selections from Die Dreigroschenoper and Happy End. She doesn't have a particularly Gallic sensibility to bring to the repertoire, so the choice seems somewhat random, but there's no harm done, either; the songs retain Weill's brusque, rather dark charm. Several originally written for voice and piano have the added appeal of idiomatic new orchestral arrangements by Robert Ziegler. Weill may be the gold standard for cabaret songs of the era, but Benjamin Britten's Four Cabaret Songs from the late '30s come closer to the loose-limbed idiom than what listeners familiar only with his "serious" music might imagine possible. His witty, nearly over-the-top setting of Auden's goofy poem "Tell me the truth about love" is especially memorable and delightful. The songs are presented in arrangements for a jazzy chamber ensemble by Daryl Runswick that play somewhat loosely but cleverly with the originals by adding sly instrumental commentary to the texts. Bohuslav Martinu's Three Songs for the Red Seven Cabaret, despite the title, for the most part seem to be stretching the definition of cabaret music and sound more like folk-inspired modern art songs. Bourne's voice is sweet but not particularly large, and she handles the songs recorded here with conviction, but doesn't bring them the élan that's usually associated with cabaret style. These are pleasant and musically nuanced performances, though, of attractive, fun repertoire. The sound is clean and intimate.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Eddins
|Cabaret songs (4) for Hedli Anderson, for voice & piano|
|Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera), opera|
|You and Me, film score (partly lost)|
|Songs (3) for the cabaret "Cervená sedma" ("Red Seven"), for voice & piano, H. 129|