PRAYER - VOICE & ORGAN / Magdalena Kozená 4792067

. . . Magdalena Kozená takes a broad, dramatic approach to devotional music . . . If this is unlikely material for a singer whose bright timbre and temperament seem to predestine her for lyric, mischievous operatic roles, especially Dorabella, that challenge adds zest to the recital.

Kozená is a sensitive interpreter who avoids religious kitsch in the individual songs, and the sheer variety of the program also works in her favor: she brings together music from Purcell to Maurice Duruflé, and most of it is so sharply recontextualized by hearing it on the organ that it holds your attention. Further, she shifts effectively among the song types on display, deploying her characteristic alto-like tone in the likes of Verdi's little-heard solo setting of the Ave Maria . . . and in the several Hugo Wolf pieces included, but cultivating a lighter and more radiant tone in the earlier art songs and the Baroque pieces . . . The sound environment of the "Hochschule für Katholische Kirchenmusik" auditorium in Regensburg is most congenial to the project. Recommended . . .

Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená believes it is "impossible to draw a line between the religious and the personal". It's a philosophy shared by composers throughout the 19th century, whose music moved freely from church to home and concert hall. Kozená's is a broad musical church, but vocally (and with the aid of organist Christian Schmitt's elegant transcriptions) she makes it work . . . Her Wolf is is particularly luscious -- never overworked but always emotionally direct, establishing the same flexible intimacy with the organ that we'd expect with a piano. Her covered middle and lower registers dissolve delicately into cloudy organ registrations, a musical "coup de théâtre" . . . Kozená sings superbly here, proving herself as flexible stylistically as vocally.

The combination of Magdalena Kozena's rich voice with the organ is something not to be missed . . . [a] brilliant program . . . Kozena performs each piece exquisitely. She rips through the coloratura in "The Blessed Virgin's Expostulation" with lightning speed and absolute clarity. Schubert's "Litanei" is gentle and contemplative, and Wolf's "Zum Neuen Jahr" is full of joy and hope. Christian Schmitt takes full advantage of all the colors available to him at the organ . . . An all-around spectacular recording.

Kozena berührt oft mit ihrem schlanken Timbre -- wie in Bachs "Komm, süßer Tod" . . . einige echte Fundstücke. Das "Agnus Dei" von Georges Bizet etwa ist mit seiner eingängigen Melodie ein wahrer Ohrwurm; Maurice Ravels "Kaddish" umgarnt den Hörer mit dem fremdartigen Reiz orientalischer Linien und der aramäischen Sprache . . . [Kozena] hat mit Christian Schmitt einen erfahrenen Arrangeur und geschmeidigen Partner an der Seite . . . Mit dem Farbreichtum der Orgel gibt Schmitt der Sängerin viele Vorlagen . . . Am stärksten gelingen ihr die schlichten Momente, in denen sie die Töne einfach strömen lässt.

Les lieder de Wolf, "Karwoche" et "Mühvoll komm ich und beladen", transcrits pour l'orgue par Max Reger, sont remarquables par l'atmosphčre que l'instrument parvient ŕ installer autour de la ligne vocale et du subtil dialogue qu'il établit avec celle-ci. L'enthousiasme du "Zum neuen Jahr" est communicatif . . . Dans la premičre strophe du "Kaddish", les notes longues tenues par l'instrument, plénitude contemplative, révčlent le superbe contrepoint dessiné avec les mélismes de la partie vocale; la seconde partie se termine par une ferveur inouie -- qui émane davantage que dans l'habituelle configuration piano/voix. Le "Notre Pčre" de Duruflé impressionne par son humble et juste dévotion. Reste Magdalena Kozená, principal attrait purement musical de cet enregistrement, qui évite tout sentimentalisme forcené et étalage gratuit. L'expression de son sentiment religieux est ardente et investie, jamais ennuyeuse par la richesse du timbre vocal, la variété dans les intentions et les nuances.