If one is a newcomer to Korngold's songs, this disc is an unbeatable introduction to the most often-performed of these small-scale lyric gems. If one already knows these small flawless jewels, it is a handy way to add them to your collection. All of the important Korngold songs one should know are here. Korngold's range of idiom is wide--from the wide-intervalled near-atonality of Op.18 (reminiscent of "Das Wunder der Heliane"), to the Shakespeare songs in English, composed in a swashbuckling style resembling that of the film score for "Robin Hood," and everywhere in between. Whatever the style, Korngold's gift for strewing appealing melodies by the handful never deserts him.
Those familiar with the composer's film scores will notice some familiar melodies here. "Sonnett fur Wien." which adapts the sweeping title theme from "Escape me Never", and "Old English Song", which was recycled in "The Sea Hawk."
The singers, Sarah Connolly and William Dazeley, could not be better-suited to this repertoire. Both are big, "mature" voices in the best sense of the term--fully developed, the registers well-integrated from top to bottom, rich tone with consistent vibrato (NOT wobble--they're not at all the same thing)--no monkeying around with faddish white tone on every phrase here--this is NOT the place! These are the sort of voices the composer would have heard at the Vienna Opera.
Iain Burnside's rich piano tone is the velvet on which pearls and diamonds are offered, as he mirrors every expressive nuance from the singers--a perfect collaboration for these voluptuous products of Viennese late romanticism.
I had already heard many of these songs thanks to von Otter's and Kimbrough's recordings. My enthusiasm for the present CD is not intended to take anything away from those fine performances, but I did note a few differences in interpretive ideas. First, on the present CD, a few of the song groups are divided--it seems to me pointlessly so--between the two singers. For example, I don't see the advantage of dividing the "Abschiedlieder" cycle between the two singers--this is a monolog, not a dialog. Perhaps more justification can be found for the similar division of labor in the "Four Shakespeare Songs,", which, strictly speaking, do not form a "cycle." Nevertheless, I continue to prefer to hear these groups sung by ONE singer (as Otter does). However, this is personal tate, which is to take nothing away from the excellence of the performances themselves.
Second, and a small point, is the pronounciation of "duc dame" in "Under the Greenwood Tree." Otter pronouces it as if it were French, Dazely, in "franglais" with the second word pronouced as in English. Within the context of the play, either seems possible.
About two-thirds of the songs are sung in the (original) German and the rest, in the (original) English. Full texts and translations are provided. At any rate, this collection is a very convenient "basic library" starting point for those wishing to acquaint themselves with Korngold's extravagantly romantic songs.