Songs my Mother Taught Me, the recent disc by the mezzo soprano Magdalena Kozená, has a particular resonance for this superb Czech singer. The recording includes Dvorák?s well-known song of the same name and other music that she heard during childhood. The disc begins with Kozená?s earthy, impassioned rendition of “If I Were a Strawberry Plant,” an unaccompanied, traditional song. Kozená offers a characterful version of excerpts from Janácek?s “Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs” and “Silesian Songs,” her warm, dark hued voice and expressive singing aptly partnered by the pianist Malcolm Martineau. Kozená imbues Dvorák?s nostalgic “Songs my Mother Taught Me” with a wistful eloquence, vividly contrasted with the vigorous “The Strings are Tuned,” the next song in the “Gypsy Melodies” cycle. Also included on the disc are lesser-known works such as selections from “Folksongs and Dances from the Tesinsko Region” by Erwin Schulhoff, a pupil of Debussy who perished in a concentration camp. Peter Eben, a Czech composer who died in 2007, set his lovely, soulful “Lute Songs” to French, German, English and Czech texts, accompanied here by the guitarist Michael Freimuth. The oldest work on the disc is “To the distant beloved” by the 19th century composer Jan Josef Rösler, which Kozená sings with heartfelt pathos. Kozená also offers Martinu?s “Songs on Two Pages,” including the evocative “A Girl from Moravia” and the passionate cycle “Fairytale of the Heart” by the 20th century composer Vitezslav Novák. All in all, a captivating disc of enchanting Czech songs sung with potent musicality and understanding.
About the Author
Vivien Schweitzer is a Manhattan-based music critic, reporter and pianist. She regularly contributes classical music reviews and features to The New York Times and also writes about music for The Economist and The Gramophone, as well as many other publications.