At the period when all but one of the recordings on the EMI disc were made, McCorrnack had become one of the great vocal miniaturists. With limited power, he made his effects by finely tuned gradations. With a small range of notes he learned to colour those that remained to him with innumerable shades and tints. His voice may at first sound thin but then with an art of which he alone had the secret he doubles its breadth. As recorded by the electrical process his tone had a certain hardness, and yet repeatedly in these songs we hear him cultivate a melting warmth and gentleness. Most of all in his repertoire he was master of making much out of little. The part of his programmes not represented here conventionally dignified under the title of art-song, he would sing with a finish worthy of the greatest, but the greater wonder was his ability to sing popular ballads in a way that called the whole dividing line into question.
With him each song has its own life. The jaunty romance among the praties is sung by a different character from the one who with the full dignity of bardic conviction celebrates the glories of Tara's halls, and different again from the gentle poet in whose dreams the brown-haired Jeannie floats ''like a zephyr'' as does the voice. Then the tears manfully choked back by Terence as he blesses Kathleen on her travels are quite different from the sentimental indulgences of the fellow who is off to Philadelphia in the morning. All is beautifully done, even when the voice and the breath are no longer obedient as they were when he recorded his best-seller, I hear you calling me, in 1908—an addition, incidentally, to the LP collection from which the rest are taken, apart from the Stephen Foster song and ''Pale hands I love'' from the Indian Love Lyrics. The transfers are beautifully clear and free of surface: EMI standard at its best.
The recordings are older, the surfaces less ignorable, on the Pearl issue. All the same, even if I were not a maniac for these things but were coming to them for the first time, having listened to the older McCormack I would still want to hear him in his prime, and especially in collaboration with the great violinist. McCormack and Kreisler had much in common, notably their liking for giving pleasure in music which High Culture considered beneath notice. It must be admitted that until they incorporated Rachmaninov into their joint repertoire their choice of material was hardly inspired. Still, McCormack always provides some special moments, floating his soft high notes and phrasing deliciously, while Kreisler's famous tone is invariably sweet and true.
One of the best of the recordings is the Berceuse from Jocelyn, but why I wonder did McCormack choose to sing 'charmed' when the rhyme is 'harm'd' sung as a monosyllable? And why does the arrangement of the Intermezzo from Cavalleria rusticana disguise the melody so pointlessly in the first section? Trivial questions maybe but the mind needs something to keep it occupied during the more trivial items in the programme: for most of the time the charm of the two great artists is quite sufficient.'