Having released this album in their "Debut" series, EMI realized that young Swedish mezzo Kararina Karneus, who was trained in London, has turned into a rising star, so you will see the CD repackaged with a more attractive cover. The company has gamely promoted quite a few young female singers -- Sally Matthews, Alice Coote, and Kate Royal among them -- and of that crop, I think the potential stars are Royal and Karneus. the latter has a bright mezzo that sounds like a ripe soprano but with plenty of flexibility. The tone is immediately appealing, and her musical instincts make her an emotionally spontaneous, natural interpreter. What could be better?
I've heard online performances from Karneus that made me sit up before I came to this CD. She's much in demand in Europe, singing the familiar Mozart-Mahler, Strauss axis, two of which are featured here. With able, but not inspired, accompaniments from Vignobles, Karneus is at home in every song. Like Royal, her approach isn't flashy at first; she's comfortable and relaxed much of the time, but what keeps your ear interested is the gorgeous, even voice and its femininity. The only weakness I hear is a lack of rhythm, but this may be due to the pianist as much as the singer. Since Stauss's songs call for a steady stream of tone, she's most successful there. the folk-inspired innocence of Mahler's early Lieder und Gesange also suit her charming style, but here I wanted more dynamism and alertness to the composer's changes of mood. Karneus doesn't really change her style from what she uses for Strauss. The great Ruckert Lieder find her a bit out of her depth, but she's up against great interpreters like Janet Baker and Kathleen Ferrier. Of the Marx songs I know nothing and cannot comment.
In all, I think EMI has found an outstanding young talent. The voice is certainly there; now let's see where the artist goes.