Our Album of the Week is Whispering Leaves with Lucie Stepanova (Cello) & Ksenia Kouzmenko (Piano). It is one of the best selling albums in the Cobra Records catalog at NativeDSD.Com and one of three albums featuring Ksenia Kouzmenko at our music store.
This week we add a new Stereo DSD 512 edition of the album for your listening enjoyment. Aart van der Wal at Opus Klassiek says “I do not believe that this music could sound more idiomatic. As if four master hands have taken care of it.”
Lucie Stepanova tells us “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 I lacked the necessary perseverance to become a 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 is 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. One day you will be playing my music. But until then you will have to practice a lot.”
Lucie Stepanova – Cello
Ksenia Kouzmenko – Piano
TracklistPlease note that the below previews are loaded as 44.1 kHz / 16 bit.
Total time: 01:03:16
Bruel & Kjaer 4003, Neumann modi ed by Rens Heijnis
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|
Westvest 90, Schiedam, The Netherlands
|Recording Type & Bit Rate|
|Release Date||February 9, 2018|
This is a beautifully constructed and beautifully played recital of Czech Music for Cello and Piano.
At its heart is a real discovery, Josef Palenicek’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 Stepanova and Ksenia Kouzmenko play it in masterly fashion.
Stepanova and Kouzmenko find a nice balance between passion and modesty. They surround Palenicek’s composition with works by his fellow countrymen Janacek and Martinu. The album gives a nice impression of the wide palette of musical styles that originated in the Czech Republic in the first half of the last century.
Czech cellist Lucie Stepanova and Belarusian pianist Ksenia Kouzmenko tackle this demanding repertoire with interpretations that reveal all the originality of each of these composers.
The interaction between the two instrumentalists also sounds like a fairytale. Although brought together by external factors, they quickly recognized their human and artistic similarities and can now use them for the benefit of music.
Lucie Stepanova and Ksenia Kouzmenko form a sensitively operating duo with fine artistic capabilities.
There’s some good programming here.
Martin’s Second Quartet was composed in 1941, the year before pianist and composer Josef Palenicek wrote his Chorale Variations on the theme ‘O Sacred Head, Now Wounded’. Pohadka introduces Janacek 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 program that offers interesting links and crosscurrents.
Jacancek’s A Blown-Away Leaf is perhaps more beautiful than the original for piano. Stepanova and Kouzmenko lovingly complement each other.
I am already eagerly looking forward to their next album.
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 Stepanova show the beauty of unknown Moravian pieces.
An absolutely great album!
The album “Whispering Leaves” was recorded by Tom Peeters in the Protestant Westvest90 Church in Schiedam, known for his excellent acoustics. A sublime album by two top musicians.
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 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 at the highest possible level.
A separate compliment also for producer and recording engineer Tom Peeters. Recording in the Westvest90 church in Schiedam, in a setting 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 a deep bow.
A sublime edition!
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