Knowledge of Verdi's songs, in relation to his operas, is very like that of Schubert's operas in comparison with his songs. Yet the Italian's songs have merit enough to call the German master to mind, as they do with the writers of both sets of sleeve-notes here. Moreover, there is nothing like the simultaneous release of two comparable recordings for sharpening the appreciation of music that may not immediately reveal its character and distinction.
Towards this revelation Margaret Price provides valuable help, but Klara Takacs gives more. The great gift of the first lies in her voice, the second in her mind. Not that these two qualities, voice and mind, are mutually exclusive, for the opulent voice is used with art and the vivid imagination is well served by a fine voice; but, in comparing the two singers here, one finds repeatedly that Price provides the introduction to the songs, while a deepening knowledge on the listener's part comes with Takacs.
The difference is felt from the start of the Hungarian's recital, opening with Il poveretto, the song of a beggar. Margaret Price presents a sturdy mendicant, one with plenty of lung-power left to tell of deeds performed for the fatherland on the field of battle. In the third verse the heroic past moves into the weary present and this is not without pathos, but no passer-by would be likely to think that this beggar had not had a square meal within recent memory. Takacs touches the heart much more profoundly, with the quiet desolation of ''la mia patria m'oblio'' and the plaintive appeal for ''un soldo'' dying away into the distance at the end of the song. In ad una stella, one of the loveliest of the collection, Price's beauty of tone and Takacs exquisite shading are both attractive. They also have interestingly different views of the song's structure, Price finding a change to a more agitated mood in the second verse, with the accompaniment given new emphasis, while with Takacs the second verse develops the mood of the first, with the significant change coming in the opening of the third verse—which on reflection seems right. The greatest difference between the interpreters occurs in the Gretchen am Spinnrade setting, Perduta ho la pace, partly simply a matter of tempo (Takacs 3'12'' t Price's 4'31''). Again, it is Takacs who experiences the song really fully, catching its tension, its anxiety and enthusiasm, lapsing into pale despair.
In both recitals the simple accompaiments are mercifully free from wilful inflation on the part of the pianists. Two other considerations, however, tilt the balance further in favour of the Hungarians: their programme presents the two sets of six romances in sequence, and their booklet does not need to be read magnifying-glass in hand.'