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
Total time: 01:12:22
|Original Recording Format|
Jean-Marie Geijsen, Lukas Kowalski
Meistersaal Berlin, Germany. July 2017
|Recording Type & Bit Rate||
|Release Date||September 13, 2019|
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.
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.
Only logged in customers who have purchased this product may leave a review.