The unassuming cover of this album, with the Viennese mezzo-soprano casually posed on the cover, belies the passion, nuanced musicianship, and artistry within. This live recording of Angelika Kirchschlager in recital with Roger Vignoles is a very worthy addition to any opera lover's collection and a gem for those who seriously know their lieder. It is commonly said among opera singers that the true test of one's talent is the ability to sing lieder in recital, and by that definition, Kirchschlager has talent in spades. The first set of songs by Hugo Wolf, with texts by Eduard Mörike, features a close relationship between the piano and voice, with Vignoles' touch always delicate and beautiful, even in dramatic or heavy moments. Sometimes the balance of the voice is a little bit soft in the recording, which is otherwise very high quality, and puts the listener right in the concert hall. Kirchschlager's voice has a crisp, clear timbre, which is also full without getting dark or murky -- a somewhat uncommon quality among mezzo-sopranos -- and there are echoes of legendary artists Frederica von Stade and the late Lucia Popp in her sighing, heartfelt phrasing with a fast vibrato. Er ist's brings the set to a passionate climax, with meticulous diction and phrasing. Perhaps the highlight on this album is the second set of Hugo Wolf songs, 6 Gedichte von Alte Wiesen, which are even more enjoyable as they are more emotional and impassioned than the first set. Kirchschlager draws the listener in with her warm, personal style. The third set of songs on the album, the Richard Strauss lieder, begins powerfully with Vignoles' power and passion accompanying the mezzo-soprano. Kirchschlager performs this group of lieder in keys lower than the originals (sometimes a fourth lower), which could be potentially a bit puzzling to the experienced listener, as many of the songs in their original keys do not go very high. However, it is Kirchschlager's right as the artist to choose what she feels will best fit with the timbre of her voice. She is at her most exciting when singing highly emotional, passioned pieces on this album, and one anticipates the deep expression of her feelings through her careful emphasis of words, such as in Für fünfzehn Pfennige. Morgen! is perhaps the most disappointing of the set, as the balance between the piano and voice is not so even and the interpretation lacks the vocal spin and tension Strauss requires for the shaping of each of his carefully composed phrases. However, the whole album is full of true artistry, and Kirchschlager and Vignoles make each piece truly a joy to listen to. Highly recommended.
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AllMusic Review by V. Vasan