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Recital is tasteful, if a little too sweet

If you speak a little German, the name Angelika Kirschlager suggests cherry liqueur (kirsch) and whipped cream (schlag). These words also perfectly describe the tone quality of the Austrian mezzo-soprano who gave a recital Friday night at Jordan Hall.

A star at the Vienna State Opera and elsewhere, Kirschlager was making her Bank of America Celebrity Series debut.

She brought a rich if stylistically narrow program of songs by Haydn, Grieg, Brahms, Schubert, and Liszt. She and the British accompanist Malcom Martineau made a wonderful team, almost too tight. Kirschlager was trained as a pianist, and she sings like a well-schooled chamber musician, without straining for effect or hanging onto notes. On the other hand, she doesn't surprise you with an emotional insight or dramatic impulse.

Everything was sung beautifully, with the same full tone and ripe vibrato, and some rather arch posturing. These made the delicate Haydn songs a bit rich. The Grieg set, in German, was projected with ease and charm. She chose some unfamiliar Brahms songs and built "Von ewiger Liebe" from a soft start to a thrilling climax.

Then came a leap backward to Schubert, who proved, surprisingly, her weakest link.

Her tendency to phrase with a breathy sexiness, which is appealing in romantic music (and even in Mozart), intruded on the meaning of these subtle, inward songs. Nor did she give key words any special underlining: There was no holiness about "Du holde kunst" ("You holy art") for example, in Schubert's "An die Musik."

A glimmer of what she might do if she cut loose in recital came in an encore. After Poulenc's "Hotel," one wished she'd done a whole set by that composer, or something even edgier, like Schoenberg's "Cabaret Songs."

There's more to this singer, one suspects, than cherries and cream. How about some olives? Figs? Even some New England cranberries?

(Correction: Because of a reporting error, a review in yesterday's Living/Arts section of a recital by Angelika Kirchschlager misspelled the Austrian mezzo- soprano's surname.)

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