MAGDALENA KOZENA Songs / Lieder 4715812

The latest release from 30-year-old Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená confirms the growing maturity and underlines the intelligence of her music-making . . .

Classical CD of the Week
The young Czech mezzo Magdalena Kozená is demonstrating remarkable range as much as the consummate artistry which has made her one of the hottest vocal names of the moment -- beyond the baroque repertoire in which she excels . . . five different composers requiring her to sing in five different languages -- and equally varying moods, all of which she pulls off with effortless eloquence and sensitivity.

. . . a career worth following . . . The one constant feature is vocal beauty. Kozená's mezzo is a young gazelle of a voice, soaring up into soprano territory as easily as Anne Sofie von Otter or Susan Graham, and it takes very kindly to the recording process. There is not a moment on this disc where the tone sounds strained or its beauty manufactured . . . Did anyone say 20th-century songs were difficult to enjoy? Here is a disc where they cast a spell of enchantment.

. . . these are songs that show off the Czech mezzo-soprano's particular gifts quite as much as the talents of her chosen composers . . . Kozená's Ravel is exquisite . . . Shostakovich's sharp, little "Satires" . . . showcases Kozená's gifts as a singing actress, so distinctive when she is on stage . . . Altogether different again is Respighi's "Il tramonto" . . . Kozená relishes the Italian composer's lush late Romanticism . . . The vocal line is perfectly shaped as Kozená allows the melody to hover over the setting sun . . . Indeed it's a measure of Kozená artistry that you take the rest of this creaking gothic tale seriously . . . Schulhoff and his songs deserve to be better known . . . These are songs suffused with an unmistakable central-European Sehnsucht which Kozená never allows to slip into sentimentality . . . Not that the trips to Western Europe on this recital aren't equally satisfying. Kozená is everthing one could hope for in a musical travelling companion.

Ravel wanted his "Chansons madécasses" to sound 'new, dramatic and erotic' and Kozená succeeds, performing them on full throttle, her phrases dripping with desire and anguish. In Shostakovich's "Satires" she negotiates the composer's difficult blend of emotion and irony with masterfull control. And she pares her voice down to gripping simplicity for Britten's "English Lullabies". Martineau's accompaniments are beautifully well-jugded -- almost another voice rather than an accompaniment. This feels less like an recital than an exploration of limits -- limits that Kozená will keep pushing back.

Take Magdalena Kozená's new album -- hardly the programming you'd expect from a major artist on a major label, but it's been done and it's a real winner.

The one constant in this imaginative programme is the soprano-ish beauty of her voice, making what might look a daunting disc of 20th-century songs a joy to hear . . . Highly recommended.

Now singing idiomatically in French, Russian, German, Italian and English, Kozená lends an earthy world music timbre to the African-inspired chanting of Ravel's cycle and imparts Shostakovich's "Satires" the terse black humour that makes the late songs so haunting. With the Henschel, she evokes the dreamy Italian sensuality of Respighi's setting of a Shelley translation. She is also persuasive in the Britten set "A Charm of Lullabies": this is a performance to put beside the interpretations of Janet Baker and Anne Sofie von Otter.

Five underexposed works . . . by as many composers in as many languages, all dispatched with impeccable style and keen individuality, come to startling life on this disc . . . The sheer relish with which Kozená tackles the material and puts over these songs spares listeners what, from another artist, might be an Advertisement for Myself. Kozená is plainly too involved in the music to preen. CD by CD, the Czech mezzo has built on her enormous promise. Here is a singer now in possession of a voice with an immediately recognizable sound, an unsurpassed command of language, a sharply etched artistic profile that nevertheless can disappear inside a role and, that final "sine qua non" of a great singer, the ability to fuse note to word inseparably. Her impeccable technique takes the additional trouble to be infinitely fluid and even personal . . . It's sensual, physical singing of a kind one had almost forgotten existed.

I am filled with nothing but admiration . . . Her voice is compelling not only in its muscled strength of tone but in the drama, passion and gravitas that she brings to everything she sings . . . Full of unusual treasures.

This is a disc to treasure. The Czech mezzo Magdalena Kozená has put together a collection of songs from five composers, representing five European cultures and set in five different languages, none of them her own. Outwardly, there is little to connect the components of this recital, but there is an underlying nocturnal theme . . . But the most obvious connecting tissues are Kozená's overriding artistry and her command of language. Whether she is singing in French, Russian, Italian, German or English, there is the utmost confidence that she knows the very essence of the words and their meaning . . . The more long-limbed vocal lines of the Ravel and Respighi bring out the lyrical ease of her voice and also show her ability to intertwine her vocal line with her instrumentalist colleagues . . .

CD of the Week: This is a disc to treasure . . . the most obvious connecting tissues are Kozená's overriding artistry and her command of language . . . a worthy successor to Kozená's all-Czech debut disc.

Now singing idiomatically in French, Russian, German, Italian and English, Kozená lends an earthy world-music timbre to the African-inspired chanting of Ravel's cycle and imparts to Shostakovich's "Satires" the terse black humour that makes these late songs so haunting. With the "Henschel", she evokes the dreamy Italian sensuality of Respighi's setting of a Shelley translation. She is also persuasive in the Britten set "A Charm of Lullabies": this is a performance to put beside the interpretations of Janet Baker and Anne Sofie von Otter. Perhaps the most interesting items are the three German songs by Schulhoff . . . Kozená is a passionate advocate of an unjustly neglected composer, cruelly silenced by the Nazis.

This is her best recording so far . . . glorious performances.

An intriguing catch of songs from the first half of the 20th century is on offer here, in five European languages and five distinct musical idioms. And Kozená and her chamber-musical colleagues have plenty to say about each one.

A rich, burnished mezzo combined with a desire to explore make this fine singer someone to watch.

Magdalena Kožená's multi-lingual recital shows this singer's formidable talent for performing widely varying musical styles. Beginning with her idiomatic French (of
which we had a substantial sampling on her previous French arias disc . . . she uses her light but well-placed and penetrating mezzo to illuminate Ravel's seductive Madagascar Songs. Listen to how Kožená creates a nearhypnotic effect with her passionate repeated cries of "Nahandove". In Shostakovich's Satires (5 Romances for Soprano and Piano ) Kožená embodies the composer's varied emotional states, from bemusement to sarcasm, and, in the concluding "Kreutzer Sonata", repressed frenzy . . . After Shostakovich's sharp edges, Respighi's lush romantic rhapsody "Il Tramonto" allows Kožená the opportunity to luxuriate in long, expansive melodic lines as well as in the resonance of pure Italianate vowels, for which the singer provides an engaging fullness of tone and depth of expression. From this we turn to Schulhoff's "Drei Stimmungsbilder" (for mezzo-soprano, violin, and piano), which begins with a lazy, quasi blues song about the sea and ends in a Debussian impressionistic haze. Kožená's creamy tone and gentle delivery make even the German language sound soft and inviting. In Britten's "Charm of Lullabies" . . . her sincerity and unerring musical instincts shine through, communicating the power and poignancy of Britten's songs. The well-chosen selections offer a variety of accompaniments, from the flute, cello, and piano trio in the Ravel, to the string quartet in the Respighi, with Malcom Martineau's sensitive pianism providing fundamental support throughout. DG's recording provides vividly realistic sonics, placing the singer and instrumentalists in natural, well-balanced perspective. In sum, this is an excellent recital disc that will please connoisseurs of the voice as well as collectors of uncommon repertoire.

On CD, she has proved a consistent winner, presenting out-of-the-way material in
intriguing juxtapositions, interpreting the selections with intimacy and flair . . . Bewildering as the terrain might seem in its diversity, Kozená never seems out of her
element. Singing in five languages, she ranges from Bacchic abandon to Gothic mystery.
She knows just when to let the music flow and when to make it "talk.'' Ravel inspires her
to passages of fresh wonder; Shostakovich provokes a grumpy, bruised dignity. Though
her voice is pleasing -- light, bright and flexible -- you wouldn't choose her recital as the
backdrop for conversation. Kozená is a demanding artist. She makes you listen.

And another Best of Category winner for Kozená with an attractive collection of 20th-century vocal works which also demonstrated her linguistic abilities over five languages.

Much interest in Magdalena Kozená's powerful new recital disc will be centered on Erwin Schulhoff's "Drei Stimmungsbilder" ("Three Atmospheric Portraits"), op. 12. This haunting piece by the singularly talented composer . . . is well worth hearing. The gifted mezzo is helped in no little part by the ideal accompaniment provided by Malcolm Martineau who also lends strong support to Ms. Kozená's moody singing of Britten's spooky "A Charm of Lullabies". The Czech singer's charmingly accented English lends the music an extra brooding quality. Written for Peter Pears, the music is a showcase for Ms. Kozená's ravishingly beautiful low voice. It would be hard to find a better performance of Respighi's magnificent work for soprano and string quartet, "Il tramonto" . . . none have found the sensuous heart of the music better than Kozená. The Henschel quartet plays splendidly, as do the instrumentalists in Ravel's "Chansons madécasses" . . . Young Magdalena Kozená proves a master of these challenging works, each and every one. This is an impressive follow up to her first recital and is, for this reviewer, the lovely mezzo's finest work on disc to date. The recording is first rate . . . Highly recommended.

A treasure-trove . . . this is a recital you can listen to in one sitting, marvelling at the artistry of a great singer.

Beeindruckend vermag sie ihre warm timbrierte, bruchlos geführte Mezzosopranstimme den unterschiedlichen Atmosphären des Zyklus anzupassen . . . Insgesamt liegt hier ein vom Repertoire wie von der Interpretation ausgesprochen spannendes Recital vor, an dessen Gelingen natürlich auch die erlesenen Begleiter Anteil haben.

Die wunderbar zarte, feinfühlige, kluge, sinnliche, schöne, in fünf Sprachen beheimatete Mezzosopranistin Magdalena Kozená singt diese Satiren auf einem verblüffenden Album der Deutschen Grammophon mit süßem Biss. Charakter zeigt sie auch in Ravels "Chansons madecasses", Respighis erotisch changierendem "Il tramonto", den "Stimmungsbildern" von Erwin Schulhoff und in Benjamin Brittens vom Klischee weit entfernten Wiegenliedern. Es lebe die Kozená!

Bei Respighi bietet Magdalena Kozená puren Wohllaut, melodische Stimmungen werden feinsinnig ausgekostet . . . Erstaunlich die Eroberung von Sarkasmus in Schostakowitschs "Satiren" . . . bei Magdalena Kozená hört man viel zwischen den Zeilen. Erwin Schulhoffs "Stimmungsbilder" (auf deutsche Texte) und Brittens (einmal nicht für Peter Pears geschriebene) "Lullabies" lassen das fantasievoll gestaltete und hinreißend gesungene Recital besinnlich ausklingen.

Es scheint so, als wolle Magdalena Kozená nach ihrem ersten lyrischen "Probelauf" auf vertrautem Terrain, d.h. mit Liedern von Komponisten ihrer tschechischen Heimat, nun mit ihrem zweiten Streich die ganze Universalität ihres sprachlichen und gesanglichen Könnens demonstrieren. Gleich vorweg: ein künstlerischer Coup, der ihr vollauf gelungen ist.

Wie die Musikerin in fünf Sprachen vom zarten Flüsterton über eindringliche Kantabilität zu expressivem Aufschrei wechselt und dabei in allen Lagen stimmlich und gestalterisch überzeugt, beeindruckt nachhaltig.

Was für eine hinreißende CD! Was für eine wundervolle Stimme! . . . der klar leuchtende Mezzosopran der jungen Tschechin ist längst weltberühmt. Dabei legt Magdalena Kozená hier ein Album vor, das als typische Entdeckung daherkäme . . . Hier ist eine Sängerin, die . . . abseitiges Repertoire schmackhaft macht und dieses dann vollkommen überzeugend verkörpert. Schönere Interpretationen als die Magdalena Kozenás kann man sich für diese unbekannte Musik schwerlich vorstellen. Dies gilt vor allem für die Lieder von Ravel, Respighi, Schulhoff und Britten. Für die beißenden Satiren op. 109 von Dmitri Schostakowitsch verbietet sich Schönheit als Attribut in dem Sinn, wie sie etwa die drei ,Chansons madécassesż von Maurice Ravel wie ein sanfter Südwind durchweht. Bei Schostakowitsch entwickelt Kozená einen anderen Tonfall. Das Ausdrucksspektrum ist größer, die Stimme flackert, vibriert, jauchzt und keucht ganz im Sinne einer kongenialen Interpretation . . . Die sinnlich prunke Interpretation des Henschel Quartetts und Magdalena Kozenás wird Respighis Liebe zur farbigen Brokatliteratur Gabriele DżAnnunzios hörbar gerecht, ohne jedoch den Schwulst des berühmtesten italienischen Literaten der Epoche zu imitieren. Magdalena Kozená taucht ganz tief in Musik und Sprache ein und befreit ,Il Tramontoż von aller schweren Schlacke. Heraus kommt die wärmste und lichteste Version dieses sich in Farben überfließenden Sonnenuntergangs, die es auf dem Markt geben dürfte. Die exzellente Tontechnik, die der Sängerin deutlich die Hauptrolle einräumt und genügend Raum zum Klingen zur Verfügung stellt, trägt daran einen nicht unbedeutenden Anteil . . . Zum Einschlafen sind Kozenás Interpretationen . . . sicher nicht, zum Träumen sicherlich.

Die Kozena vermittelt die Poesie der Texte auf idiomatisch stimmige Weise . . . Wunderbar ihr expressives und dabei stets wohllautendes Spiel mit den Farbvaleurs.

Ce récital si bien composé dans sa diversité exige pourtant davantage que la simple démonstation polyglotte: de l'érotisme languide de Ravel ŕ celui, plus expéditif, de Chostakovitch en passant par la mélancolie de Respighi ou les imprévisibles berceuses de Britten, l'interprčte doit rendre texte et discours intelligibles. Elle évolue dans cette panoplie de rôles avec l'aisance et la célérité d'un Fregoli. Le miel de sa voix enveloppe la poésie d'Evariste-Désiré Parny sans anestésier les rythmes et les harmonies poivrés de Ravel. Elle imite ŕ merveille le sourire crispé de Chostakovitch et réussit le numéro d'équlibriste qu'imposent les berceuses de Britten (A charm). L'éloquence des partenaires musicaux comme la richesse de la prise de son mettent en valeur la plénitude des moyens et l'intelligence dramatique de Kozená.

Ce programme porte la marque d'une intelligence aigue, d'une curiosité musicale et d'une pureté d'âme et de voix dont les «Chants d'amour tchčques» . . . et les cantates italiennes de Haendel . . . témoignaient voici quatre ans, avant un récital d'opéras français, plus inégal mais tout aussi émoustillant . . . Cette fois, la jeune chanteuse morave mise sur l'exigence et la finesse d'un public auquel elle propose un florilčge d'un raffinement presque boulézien.

Louons cette prise de son aussi parfaitement pure et précise de nous restituer dans toute sa splendeur cette voix sublime, capable de rendre estéthique męme le cri, mais le plus souvent d'une délicatesse envoűtante ! On reste lŕ, bouche bée, ŕ savourer le moindre parlando, le moindre son filé, parfois murmuré dans un souffle.

Un gran disco que confirma la enorme versatilidad de la mezzo y su valentía al afrontar un repertorio desconocido pero fascinante.

La mezzo Magdalena Kozená es una voz de primerísimo rango ... las Canciones de cuna de Britten resultan deliciosas en la voz de Kozená, en el que quizá sea uno de los momentos más bellos de la grabación.

Het is een bloedstollend mooie cd geworden, met een muziekkeuze die opmerkelijk onalledaags is.

De verschillende karakters van de liederen weet ze feilloos te treffen.