Soiree (2019)

Strauss, Janacek, Brahms, Ravel, Stravinsky, Dvorak, Chausson

Magdalena Kozena


Soirée captures the atmosphere of informal, domestic music making. Czech star mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená offers an intimate and highly personal collection of international songs together with an outstanding group of musical friends, including Sir Simon Rattle, who makes his recording debut as a pianist.

The German lied is represented by Brahms (Two Songs, Op. 91 and Five Ophelia Songs, WoO 22) and Strauss (Morgen!), the French chanson by Chausson (Chanson perpétuelle) and Ravel (Chansons madécasses), and 20th-century avant-gardism with Stravinsky’s Three Songs from William Shakespeare.

"Whether or not musicians lead crazy lives is a thorny question, but many of us are so busy that to find a joint evening with friends, type the dates into our mobile phones and then throw together a quick meal at the very last minute already feels like an achievement.

Don’t you sometimes long for the days when it was common for people to get together every Sunday, bringing their instruments, and after good food, wine and talk, there would be chamber music just for the sheer pleasure of it? And the alcohol would sometimes make the unplayable more or less possible: or at least it felt so...

Although we seldom had the chance to cook for each other, the relaxed atmosphere of family music was permanently present during these concerts and recording sessions, even though they were completely teetotal! Well nearly, as persuading my colleagues to sing in Czech for the Janácek songs did take a couple of drinks to get off the ground..."

Magdalena Kožená, mezzo-soprano

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Magdalena Kozena

Magdalena Kožená was born in the Czech city of Brno and studied voice and piano at the Brno Conservatory and later with Eva Blahová at Bratislava’s Academy of Performing Arts. She has been awarded several major prizes both in the Czech Republic and internationally, culminating in the Sixth International Mozart Competition in Salzburg in 1995. 

She was signed by Deutsche Grammophon in 1999 and immediately released her first album of Bach arias on its Archiv label. Her recital debut recording, an album of songs by Dvorák, Janácek and Martinu, appeared on Deutsche Grammophon’s yellow label in 2001 and was honoured with Gramophone’s Solo Vocal Award.  She was named Artist of the Year by Gramophone in 2004 and has won numerous other awards since, including the Echo Award, Record Academy Prize, Tokyo, and Diapason d’or. Most recent releases for Deutsche Gramophon have included ‘Monteverdi’ with La Cetra Baroque Ensemble (2016), ‘Prayer’ for voice and organ with Christian Schmidt (2014), ‘Love and longing’ with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Sir Simon Rattle (2012). The album ´Cole Porter´ recorded with Ondej Havelka and his Melody Makers appeared on Magdalena´s own label Brnofon in 2017, the two latest CD was recorded on the Dutch label Pentatone in 2019.

Kožená has worked with many of the world’s leading conductors, Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Gustavo Dudamel, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Mariss Jansons, James Levine, Sir Charles Mackerras and Sir Roger Norrington. Her list of distinguished recital partners includes the pianists Daniel Barenboim, Yefim Bronfman, Malcolm Martineau, András Schiff and Mitsuko Uchida, with whom she has performed at such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Alice Tully Hall and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, and at the Aldeburgh, Edinburgh and Salzburg festivals. Kožená’s understanding of historical performance practices have been cultivated in collaboration with outstanding period-instrument ensembles, including the English Baroque Soloists, the Gabrieli Consort and Players, Il Giardino Armonico, Les Musiciens du Louvre, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Venice Baroque Orchestra and Le Concert d’Astrée. She is also in demand as soloist with the Berlin, Vienna and Czech Philharmonics and the Cleveland, Philadelphia and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras.

Kožená first performed at the Salzburg Festival in 2002 as Zerlina in Don Giovanni and returned in 2013 as Idamante, a role she has also sung for the Glyndebourne Festival and in Berlin and Lucerne. Kožená made her first appearance at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 2003 as Cherubino in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and has since been a regular guest. She sang Zerlina for the company’s tour to Japan in 2006 and returned to New York to take the title-role in Jonathan Miller’s production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande in 2010/11. Her opera credits also include Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Royal Opera House, 2007), Oktavian in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (Berlin Staatsoper, 2009 and Baden Baden Easter Festival, 2015), the title-role in Bizet’s Carmen (Salzburg Easter and Summer Festivals, 2012), Charpentier’s Médée (Basel Opera 2015) Martinu’s Juliette (Berlin Staatsoper, 2016), Magueritte in Berlioz´s La Damnation de Faust (Berlin Staatsoper, 2017) or Phaidre in Rameau´s Hippolyte et Aricie (Berlin Staatsoper, 2018).

To begin the 2019-20 season, Magdalena will make her highly anticipated role debut as Lady Macbeth in the world premiere of Pascal Dusapin’s Macbeth, Underworld at La Monnaie, Brussels. Other opera engagements this season will include her return as Octavian in Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier at the Metropolitan opera under Sir Simon Rattle, as Idamante in Mozart’s Idomeneo at the Staatsoper Berlin, and she will make her role debut as the Waitress in the world premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s Innocence at Festival Aix En Provence. In concert this season, Magdalena will embark on a European and US chamber music tour, joined by Sir Simon Rattle on piano. She will join Fillarmonica della Scala in Milan for Mahler’s Ruckert Lieder at Teatro alla Scala, and in Spring 2020 she will re-join her long-standing touring partners, The Melody Makers.

Kožená was appointed a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2003 for her services to French music.

September 2019

photo: Julia Wesely 2019 / Pentatone

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Soiree (2019)

Strauss, Janacek, Brahms, Ravel, Stravinsky, Dvorak, Chausson

Magdalena Kozena

    Art Music Lounge

Magdalena Kožená, who got her start singing Baroque music, has always had a very pretty voice and a good technique. Of that, there has never been any doubt. In this particular recital, she was wise to stick primarily to those kinds of songs that suit her voice and style. With that being said, I was really impressed by her sensitive rendition of Chausson’s Chanson perpétuelle in which she is accompanied by string quartet and piano. Her pianist here is her husband, famed conductor Sir Simon Rattle, so perhaps he had some effect on coaching more expression than usual from her. One thing I noticed, to the good, is that her voice has deepened with time. Her lower range, once merely pretty, has a richer quality which she uses to good effect in this opening number. Although Rattle plays well behind her, it is really the string quartet that provides the oomph in this selection. The same string quartet, amplified by clarinet and flute, accompany her in the Dvo?ák group, and once again I was surprised by her new commitment to interpreting. Moreover, the chamber group provides a richer context for her than if it were just piano. I really enjoyed Duncan Ward’s instrumental arrangements here, tasteful and supportive without trying to be something they are not. Both Kožená and the chamber musicians are particularly lively in Širokými rukávy, which has just the right Bohemian flavor for this song. I should also add that her diction is crystal-clear, always a plus for any singer, and I was extremely happy not to hear her drag out Songs my mother taught me as far too many singers have done over the last century. The strings are tuned is also sung and played in a lively manner. Needless to say, she sings Janá?ek’s nursery rhymes very well indeed, and the music is wonderfully wacky. The finale is an all-time chestnut, Strauss’ Morgen, in a fairly nice arrangement for violin and piano accompaniment. Since this is a song that calls primarily for the kind of virtues that Kožená possesses in spades—a fine legato and perfect dynamics control—it was a foregone conclusion that she would be able to do a good job on it, and she does, if not in the same class as Leo Slezak. A surprisingly good outing for Kožená with some excellent music to boot.

Lynn René Bayley[read full review]


Escaping the constraints of a big label, Magdalena Kožená presents on this fine album not only seven Dvorak songs in a treatment by Duncan Ward for flute, clarinet, string quartet, and piano, but on the keys none other than her husband Sir Simon Rattle, besides his record debut as Pianist. In the preface, Kožená writes about how difficult it is today to organize a house music Sunday with like-minded people. The album should reflect the atmosphere of such an impromptu meeting. Together with Wolfram Brandl (violin), Rahel Rilling (violin), Yulia Deyneka (viola), David Adorjan (cello), Andrew Marriner (clarinet), Kaspar Zehnder (flute) and Sir Simon Rattle (piano) Magdalena Kožená sings a colorful bouquet on songs by Ernest Chausson, Antonín Dvo?ák, Johannes Brahms, Igor Stravinsky, Maurice Ravel and Leoš Janá?ek. In the sonorous and finely shaded versions for mezzo-soprano and chamber music ensemble in different formations, these jewels from the late 19th and early 20th century get a distinctive folkloric, opulent or exotic touch, depending on whether we have Dvo?ák's earthy, swinging songs, Janá?ek, Brahms, or listening to Ravel's sounding trip to Madagascar. A highlight of the album is Brahms 'Geistliches Wiegenlied', accompanied by viola and piano. "Grim cold rushes down, with which only I cover the child's limbs! O all you angels, who walk winged in the wind, are stilling the tops, my child is asleep, "he says. Shakespeare learns from Stravinsky's three songs from 1953 (Sonnett 8, Ariel's Song and Spring) and the five Ophelia Lieder by Johannes Brahms (arr. Aribert Reimann for mezzo-soprano and string quartet) expressive clarity and linguistic plasticity. In Ravel's colorfully orchestrated, impressionistically abstract sound poems, Magdalena Kožená can, in any case, keep up with the best French interpreters. Mysterious starry lights where every word catches artificially in the mood. Conclusion: This is the most beautiful album of the budding autumn. May Magdalena Kožená and her friends soon meet again for a Sunday rendezvous with wine. The excellent sound engineers of Pentatone could be there again by chance.

Dr. Ingobert Waltenberger[read full review]

Soiree (2019)

Strauss, Janacek, Brahms, Ravel, Stravinsky, Dvorak, Chausson

Magdalena Kozena

Piano Technician: Thomas Hübsch
Producer: Erdo Groot
Recording Engineer: Jean-Marie Geijsen, Lukas Kowalski
Recording Location: Meistersaal Berlin, Germany. July 2017
Recording Type & Bit Rate: DSD 64

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PTC5186671: Soiree
01:12:22   Select quality & channels above
Chanson perpetuelle, Op. 37 - Version for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano Quintet
00:07:20   N/A
Gypsy Songs, Op. 55, B. 104 - Excerpts Arr. D. Ward for Mezzo-Soprano and Chamber Ensemble - No. 1,
00:02:42   N/A
Gypsy Songs, Op. 55, B. 104 - Excerpts Arr. D. Ward for Mezzo-Soprano and Chamber Ensemble - No. 6,
00:01:24   N/A
Cypresses, B. 11 - No. 11, Me srdce casto v bolesti - Arr. D. Ward for Mezzo-Soprano and Chamber Ens
00:03:20   N/A
In Folk Tone, Op. 73, B. 146 - Excerpts Arr. D. Ward for Mezzo-Soprano and Chamber Ensemble - No. 2,
00:01:53   N/A
Gypsy Songs, Op. 55, B. 104 - Excerpts Arr. D. Ward for Mezzo-Soprano and Chamber Ensemble - No. 4,
00:02:40   N/A
Gypsy Songs, Op. 55, B. 104 - Excerpts Arr. D. Ward for Mezzo-Soprano and Chamber Ensemble - No. 5,
00:01:05   N/A
In Folk Tone, Op. 73, B. 146 - Excerpts Arr. D. Ward for Mezzo-Soprano and Chamber Ensemble - No. 1,
00:03:19   N/A
2 Gesange, Op. 91 - No. 1, Gestillte Sehnsucht
00:06:20   N/A
2 Gesange, Op. 91 - No. 2, Geistliches Wiegenlied
00:05:05   N/A
3 Songs from William Shakespeare - No. 1, Musick to Heare
00:02:50   N/A
3 Songs from William Shakespeare - No. 2, Full Fathom Five
00:01:52   N/A
3 Songs from William Shakespeare - No. 3, When Daisies Pied
00:02:05   N/A
Chansons madecasses, M. 78 - No. 1, Nahandove
00:06:10   N/A
Chansons madecasses, M. 78 - No. 2, Aoua
00:04:03   N/A
Chansons madecasses, M. 78 - No. 3, Il est doux
00:04:11   N/A
5 Ophelia-Lieder, WoO 22 - Arr. A. Reimann for Mezzo-Soprano and String Quartet - No. 1, Wie erkenn'
00:00:58   N/A
5 Ophelia-Lieder, WoO 22 - Arr. A. Reimann for Mezzo-Soprano and String Quartet - No. 2, Sein Leiche
00:00:30   N/A
5 Ophelia-Lieder, WoO 22 - Arr. A. Reimann for Mezzo-Soprano and String Quartet - No. 3, Auf morgen
00:00:57   N/A
5 Ophelia-Lieder, WoO 22 - Arr. A. Reimann for Mezzo-Soprano and String Quartet - No. 4, Sie tragen
00:01:05   N/A
5 Ophelia-Lieder, WoO 22 - Arr. A. Reimann for Mezzo-Soprano and String Quartet - No. 5, Und kommt e
00:01:54   N/A
Rikadla, JW 5/16 - No. 1, Leze krtek podle meze
00:01:08   N/A
Rikadla, JW 5/16 - No. 2, Karel do pekla zajel
00:00:36   N/A
Rikadla, JW 5/16 - No. 3, Franta rasul hralna basu
00:01:03   N/A
Rikadla, JW 5/16 - No. 4, Delam, delam kazani
00:01:06   N/A
Rikadla, JW 5/16 - No. 5, Ho, ho, kravy do
00:01:03   N/A
Rikadla, JW 5/16 - No. 6, Kozabila hrusky sbira
00:00:40   N/A
Rikadla, JW 5/16 - No. 7, Vasek, pasek
00:00:37   N/A
Rikadla, JW 5/16 - No. 8, Frantiku, frantiku
00:00:25   N/A
4 Lieder, Op. 27, TrV 170 - No. 4, Morgen - Arr. for Mezzo-Soprano, Violin and Piano
00:04:01   N/A

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