Only a few years since emerging as a notable singer, mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená hasn't stopped enchanting her audience. It is, after all, a rare pleasure to experience this unique voice with its warm and elegant timbre. Some of its aspects are apparent in her preceding recital, an unusual–and unusually beautiful program of Czech love songs. With this account of Handel's Italian Cantatas, Kozená confirms the immense scope of her gifts.
Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená's collection of vocal solos (plus a few instrumental tracks) from the early Baroque, Lettere Amorose, "Love Letters," is a delight. The recital includes some familiar pieces like d'India's Cruda Amarilli, Monteverdi's Sì dolce è il tormento, and Sanz's giddy dance, Canarios, but consists largely of repertoire that's more obscure but no less engaging. Merula's lullaby chaconne Hor ch'è tempo di dormire is a jewel, gorgeously idiosyncratic and deeply emotional. Caccini's erotic Odi, Euterpe, 'I dolce canto could be mistaken for mature Monteverdi at his most mischievous, but it dates from 1601 or 1602, when Monteverdi was at an early stage in his career. A real standout of the album is Strozzi's L'Eraclito amoroso: Udite amanti, which alternates sections of extravagantly expressive recitative with a ravishingly lyrical chaconne. Kozená easily has the technique to make the music glow and the dramatic gifts to bring it movingly to life. Her sharply characterized interpretations of the songs make each of them seem as fully realized and potent as a short operatic scene. Her voice has the burnished warmth of a mezzo, but can gleam when she soars into her upper register, and throughout she maintains an exquisite purity.
This marks the first release with Robin Ticciati leading the Deutsches Symphonie Orchester Berlin, and it makes the requisite splash. There's a world premiere: even if you're not on board with the trend of enlarging the repertory through arrangements of works that are perfectly good in their original form, you will likely be seduced by mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozená's ravishing reading of Debussy's voice-and-piano Ariettes oubliées, inventively arranged by Brett Dean. There's a little-known work: the opening one, Fauré's Prelude to Pénélope (a sparsely performed opera, with a slightly less sparsely performed prelude) is a lush and beautifully controlled arc. Controlled and detailed are two words that come to mind for Ticciati's interpretation of La mer, the warhorse work on the program; it may seem a bit deliberate, but there are many hues in his performance. The two Debussy works are balanced by two of Fauré's: the fourth work is the suite from Fauré's incidental music to Pélleas et Mélisande (in Charles Koechlin's version), also deliberate and lush. Linn recorded the performance in Berlin's Jesus Christus Kirche, which allows the full spectrum of orchestral colors to come through. Worth the money for Kozená fans for her turn alone, and a fine French program for all.
Claudio Abbado was undeniably the supreme Mahler conductor of our time. With his Lucerne Festival Orchestra he has set new standards in the field of classical music, especially in the interpretation of works by Gustav Mahler. The core of the orchestra is provided by the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, itself an élite body of players. Soloists like violinist Kolja Blacher, clarinettist Sabine Meyer, oboist Albrecht Mayer, violist Wolfram Christ, cellist Natalia Gutman, the Hagen Quartet and members of the Alban Berg Quartet to name just a few, make the Lucerne Festival Orchestra a star-studded ensemble.
Mezzo Magdalena Kožená returns with another early music adventure on Archiv Production after her highly acclaimed Vivaldi album: Kožená explores the early Italian Baroque music of Claudio Monteverdi with rewarding results. Inspired by the improvisational nature of much of this music, Kožená reveals yet another aspect of her musical personality with selections from L’incoronazione di Poppea, Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and more.
The new recording from Magdalena Kožená features deeply-felt interpretations of sacred songs from the Baroque to the 20th Century. In a rare recording collaboration, she is joined by virtuoso Christian Schmitt, in music for voice and organ from the sacred traditions of Germany, Austria, France and England, as well as her native Czechoslovakia. Of course, the album includes music by J.S. Bach – a composer with whom Magdalena Kožená has long been associated - with sacred aspects of German song represented by Hugo Wolf and Schubert.
"I would be very hard pressed to find another single recording of this high quality that so clearly demonstrates the musicality of the Bach family." ~American Record Guide
"If anyone has recorded a lovelier Mozart recital in recent years, I've yet to hear it. In her early thirties, Kozená is now consummate mistress of her art. Her liquid high mezzo, with its easy upward extension, combines warmth with the bloom and freshness of youth, while her coloratura, on display in 'Al desio di chi t'adora' . . . is as brilliant and expressive as Bartoli's, yet without the Italian diva's intrusive aspirates . . . Fortepianist Jos van Immerseel is an equally sympathetic partner in an impassioned yet intimate performance . . ." ~Gramophone
Orfeo ed Euridice (1762) represents the first of a series of operatic successes by the German composer Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck (1714-1787). It is his best-known opera and his greatest reform work (first performed in Vienna on 5 October 1762). Gluck broke every courtly convention governing the operatic art form of the time. He strove for naturalness and simplicity in both subject and music. Gluck liberated opera from its rigid confines, refrained from the pointless embellishment of arias, and replaced the recitativo secco with orchestral recitatives or recitativo accompagnato, creating through-composed forms of unprecedented drama. He also gave lyricism a greater significance in relation to the music. Gluck's importance in opera's overall history is matched only by Claudio Monteverdi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Wagner…