Whispering Leaves

Ksenia Kouzmenko, Lucie Stepanova

Original Recording Format: DSD 64

In 1981, when I was four years old, Maestro Josef Palenicek gave a recital in the Czech town of Teplice where I lived with my parents at that time. Since he had been my mother’s piano teacher at the Prague Music Academy and their relationship had deepened and warmed throughout the years, he accepted my mother’s offer to stay at our house. That evening was to be an unforgettable and infuencing moment in my life.

While I was sitting on the maestro’s lap we shared our soup from the same bowl. After that I took him to my room and showed off my entire wardrobe. Finally we wound up singing and playing at the piano all evening. Completely enchanted I decided that the piano would be the instrument which was going to make me happy -not the violin that I had just started playing, following my father’s path. And that was the case in the following six years until I had to admit that apparently I lacked the necessary perseverance to become a really good pianist. When I was eleven – my family had just moved to Prague – I reconsidered for the third time and this decision should finally be the lucky one: I started playing the cello, taking lessons from Maestro Palenicek’s youngest son, Jan Palenicek.

Two years later I accompanied my mother to a rehearsal at Maestro Palenicek’s home where they practiced for a concert, he playing the piano and my mother singing. After they finished rehearsing he looked at me and said with a smile in his eyes: “I heard you are now playing the cello. I have composed numerous pieces for that beautiful instrument. Maybe one day you will be playing my music. But until then you will have to practice a lot.”

– Lucie Stepanova


Fairy Tale - 1. Con moto
Fairy Tale - 2. Con moto
Fairy Tale - 3. Allegro
Chorale Variations on the Theme O Sacred Head, Now Wounded - Theme
Chorale Variations on the Theme O Sacred Head, Now Wounded - Var1. Comodo
Chorale Variations on the Theme O Sacred Head, Now Wounded - Var2. Animato
Chorale Variations on the Theme O Sacred Head, Now Wounded - Var3. Vivace
Chorale Variations on the Theme O Sacred Head, Now Wounded - Var4. Comodo
Chorale Variations on the Theme O Sacred Head, Now Wounded - Var5. Adagio
Chorale Variations on the Theme O Sacred Head, Now Wounded - Var6. Andante grazioso Impetuoso
Chorale Variations on the Theme O Sacred Head, Now Wounded - Var7. Allegro assai
Chorale Variations on the Theme O Sacred Head, Now Wounded - Var8. Cadenza ad libitum
Chorale Variations on the Theme O Sacred Head, Now Wounded - Var9. Finale. Allegro. Grave
Sonate no.2 for cello and piano - Allegro
Sonate no.2 for cello and piano - Largo
Sonate no.2 for cello and piano - Allegro comodo
A Blown-Away Leaf from the piano cycle On an Overgrown Path

Total time: 01:03:16

Additional information





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Acoustic Revive

Digital Converters

Grimm Audio

Editing Software


Mastering Engineer

Tom Peeters


Bruel & Kjaer 4003, Neumann modi ed by Rens Heijnis

Mixing Board

Rens Heijnis custom made


The recording was originally digitized using the Grimm AD1, which operated at DSD64. 

The original session tracks were edited and rebalanced (which meant going through the mixer) in the only available format for that purpose; the Pyramix 352.8KHz/24bit PCM (DXD). Prior to the advent of direct digital delivery, the next step in the production process from 352.8KHz/24bit PCM would be the DSD64 edited master for SACD production. What we have done now is also make a direct conversion to DSD128 and DSD256 from that original DXD edited master, without going through any interim processing steps.

Those DXD to DSD conversions are not up-samplings, as they would be going from one PCM sampling rate to another, for they are different encoding systems. PCM is a digital value sample based system, and DSD is a digital bit density modulated system. Conversion from any PCM sample rate to any DSD bit rate system is a remodulation, not an up-sampling.

We feel there is an audio advantage to this process in using the original files so we give you the choice and you can decide.



Original Recording Format


Tom Peeters

Recording Engineer

Tom Peeters

Recording location

Westvest 90, Schiedam, The Netherlands

Recording Software


Recording Type & Bit Rate


Release Date February 9, 2018

Press reviews

Gramophone, aug 2018

This is a beautifully constructed and rather beautifully played recital of Czech music for cello and piano. At its heart is a real discovery, Josef Pálení?ek’s Chorale Variations on the Theme ‘O Sacred Head, Now Wounded’ (1942)…The appropriation of the Lutheran chorale acts as a metaphor in reverse for Czechoslovakia’s occupation by the Nazis, the composition occasioned by the Gestapo’s arrest of a local benefactor. Politics aside, it is a masterly work and Lucie Št?pánová and Ksenia Kouzmenko play it in masterly fashion.

Volkskrant, aug 2018

Stepánová en Kouzmenko vinden een mooie balans tussen passie en ingetogenheid. Ze omringen de compositie van Pálenícek met werken van zijn landgenoten Janácek en Martinu. Zo ontstaat een fraaie indruk van het brede palet aan muzikale stijlen dat in het Tsjechië van de eerste helft van de vorige eeuw is ontstaan.

Crescendo Magazine, may 2018

La violoncelliste tchèque Lucie Stepanova et la pianiste biélorusse Ksenia Kouzmenko s’attaquent à ce répertoire exigeant avec des interprétations qui laissent transparaitre toute l’originalité de chacun de ces compositeurs…The Czech cellist Lucie Stepanova and the Belarusian pianist Ksenia Kouzmenko tackle this demanding repertoire with interpretations that reveal the originality of each of these composers.


Geradezu märchenhaft klingt auch das Zusammenspiel der beiden Instrumentalistinnen. Zwar auf äußere Anregung hin zusammengebracht, haben sie schnell ihre menschlichen und künstlerischen Gemeinsamkeiten erkannt und können diese nunmehr zugunsten der Musik einsetzten..Lucie Stepanova and Ksenia Kouzmenko form a sensitively operating duo with fine artistic capabilities.

Musicweb International

There’s some good programming here. Martin?’s Second Quartet was composed in 1941, the year before pianist and composer Josef Pálení?ek wrote his Chorale Variations on the theme ‘O Sacred Head, Now Wounded’. And Pohádka introduces Janá?ek whose A Blown-Away Leaf, from On an Overgrown Path, is heard in the arrangement by the great cellist Miloš Sádlo…A well-recorded and annotated programme that offers interesting links and cross-currents.

Luister, may 2018 5 out of 5

Jacanceks A Blown-Away Leaf is misschien wel mooier dan het origineel voor piano. Stepanova en Kouzmenko vullen elkaar liefdevol aan. Ik kijk alvast reikhalzend naar de volgende cd uit.

Music Frames, march 2018

Finally, A Blown-Away Leaf (by Janáçek) is the inspiration for the title Whispering Leaves, an album on which the great musicians Ksenia Kouzmenko and Lucie Št?pánová show the beauty of unknown Moravian pieces. Absolutely great record!

Stretto febr 2018

The CD “Whispering Leaves” was recorded by technician Tom Peeters in the Protestant Westvest Church in Schiedam, known for his excellent acoustics. A sublime CD by two top musicians. Highly recommended.
De cd “Whispering Leaves” werd opgenomen o.l.v. technicus Tom Peeters in de protestantse Westvestkerk in Schiedam, bekend om zijn uitstekende akoestiek. Een sublieme cd door twee topmusici. Warm aanbevolen.

Opus Klassiek

“Wat bij dit spel het eerst opvalt is de grote betovering die ervan afstraalt. Sterker nog, ik geloof niet dat deze muziek idiomatischer zou kunnen klinken. Alsof vier meesterhanden zich erover hebben ontfermd. Het is ook de lyrische diepte die het duo voortdurend weet te bereiken, zoals in het Largo uit Martinu’s sonate. Je zou bijna vergeten dat dit bovenal een uitermate virtuoos programma is dat de hoogste technische eisen stelt. De vele horden worden echter niet alleen met het grootste gemak genomen, maar ook de gepassioneerde en energieke toets is van een zeldzame indringendheid en schoonheid. Er is geen twijfel mogelijk: hier wordt op het hoogst denkbare niveau gemusiceerd.”
“I do not believe that this music could sound more idiomatic. As if four master hands have taken care of it. It is also the lyrical depth that the duo constantly manages to achieve, as in the Largo from Martinu’s sonata. You would almost forget that this is above all an extremely virtuoso program that demands the highest technical requirements. The many hurdles, however, are not only taken with the greatest of ease, but also the passionate and energetic touch is of a rare penetration and beauty. There is no doubt: here, music is played on the highest possible level.”
“A separate compliment also for producer recording engineer, producer Tom Peeters in the Westvest church in Schiedam, in a registration that excels in the same musical qualities: glowing, yet transparent and with an ideal balance between the two instruments. The acoustic space is great and the definition is of the kind to also take the hat deep. A sublime edition!”


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