by Magdalena Kozená


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Magdalena Kozená is quickly establishing herself as a major artist, by dint of her limpid, silvery voice and her restless musical intelligence. Having already proved her mettle in repertory ranging from 18th-century arias to Czech art songs to Bach choral works to French opera, the Czech-born mezzo-soprano now tackles the 20th century, essaying the works of five different composers, in five different languages. The result is a gorgeous album that displays all the singer's vocal skills and dramatic flair. Kozená begins by exploring the ripe eroticism of Ravel's Chansons madécasses (Madagascan Songs), evoking the bloom of desire even in "Aoua!," ostensibly a cri de coeur assailing European colonizers. She then pitches into Shostakovich's Satires in tones that are alternately sly, raucous, and biting, communicating the lyrics' jaundiced view of life with obvious relish. But the true revelation here is the album's centerpiece, Respighi's 15-minute La tramonta (The Sunset), based on a poem by Shelley. Here the mood shifts to romantic melancholy; Kozená conveys sorrow, longing, and resignation through heart-stopping vocal inflections that transcend mere technical facility, entering an interpretive realm inhabited by legends such as Callas and Schwarzkopf. Wisely, the rest of the program is less freighted with emotion, consisting of Erwin Schulhoff's lyrical Drei Stimmungsbilder (Three Atmospheric Portraits) and Benjamin Britten's sprightly Charm of Lullabies. Variations in accompaniment --from Malcolm Martineau's incisive piano work to the brooding strains of the Henschel Quartet (in the Respighi) -- add further complexity and interest. The only uncertainty posed by these performances would be: Are they best enjoyed in a single sitting as a widely varied concert, or best savored in sections as five mini-recitals? The best way to decide is to try both methods repeatedly, something that owners of this disc will consider an easy assignment.

Product Details

Release Date: 07/13/2004
Label: Dg Imports
UPC: 0028947158127
catalogNumber: 471581


  1. Chansons madécasses, song cycle for soprano voice, flute, cello & piano
  2. Satires (5), for soprano & piano, Op. 109
  3. Il tramonto (The Sunset), for voice & string quartet/string orchestra, P. 101
  4. Stimmungsbilder (3), Op 12/ WV 30
  5. A Charm of Lullabies, song cycle for mezzo soprano & piano, Op. 41

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