Mozart's songs--at least some of them--have appeared on disc with reasonable frequency, but usually on compilations with works by other composers. A couple of editions claiming to be "complete" have been issued, but this newcomer overall is the best, combining the sincere, articulate interpretations of two accomplished if not always compelling singers performing 36 songs on two discs. One of the songs, "Luisens Antwort", is actually by Schubert, and is included for textual comparative purposes with Mozart's "Das Lied der Trennung"; another is likely an arrangement by Mozart of an original song by Czech composer Josef Myslivecek; a third--"Die Zufriedenheit"--appears in two essentially differentRead more versions, one with piano, the other a setting with mandolin accompaniment.
Most striking to a listener more or less unfamiliar with these songs is how substantial and durable and specialized many of them are. With a few exceptions these certainly are anything but minor amusements or even scraps from this or that opera wastebasket. Of course we take the high level of craftsmanship and melodic invention for granted; but because we don't often hear or even recognize Mozart as a "song composer"--certainly not in the manner of later composers such as Schubert--the opportunity to listen to all of his works in the genre--not just the usual, most popular examples--is something of a revelation as well as another reminder of his genius.
Speaking of Schubert, it's easy to hear more than a bit of the musical sensibility of that yet-to-be-born composer in songs such as "An Chloë" and "Abendempfindung an Laura"; and who can resist the beautiful, simple melody and artful text setting of "Das Traumbild"--Mozartean elegance at its finest. There's also plenty of drama in songs such as "Der Zauberer" and (in a near-operatic exposition) "Die Ihr des Unermeßlichen Weltalls Schöpfer ehrt".
All of these songs are given heartfelt and technically solid performances by soprano Ruth Ziesak and tenor Lothar Odinius, although overall Odinius, with his easy-on-the-ear, lyric timbre, delivers the more memorably expressive interpretations. Ziesak has a very pleasing light soprano but sometimes we might wish for a bit more emotional involvement, as in the popular "Das Veilchen". However, both singers are accomplished lieder recitalists (both have contributed admirably to Naxos' ongoing Schubert Edition) and so is their superb accompanist Ulrich Eisenlohr, who makes the most of Mozart's integral piano parts, which often seem to anticipate much later developments in lieder composition. The studio sound is detailed and well-balanced between voice and piano, although the latter could benefit from just a touch less brightness in the treble. Liner notes provide a thorough discussion of all the songs; texts and translations are available only from Naxos' website.