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S & H Recital Review

Brahms, Ravel, Dvorak, Janacek Magdalena Kožená mezzo soprano Malcolm Martineau piano Wigmore Hall 17 December (PGW)




Mädchenlied op 95 no 6


Mädchenlied op 85 no 3


Das Mädchen op 95 no 1


Mädchenlied op 107 no 5


Das Mädchen spricht op 107 no 3


Mädchenfluch op 69 no 9


Histoires naturelles


I dreamt that you were dead op 3 no 2 from 'Evening Songs'


4 Songs op 2


Selection from Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs


Magdalena Kožená has winning appearance and platform manner, and a very a lovely voice. A sequence of Brahms 'Maidens' songs' was well chosen, their many moods ending with a curse upon the young man who had 'muddied the water'. Beauty of tone took precedence over diction, and her German pronunciation was not beyond reproach.

The dead-pan French prose poems of Jules Renard for Ravel's Histoires Naturelles were given with every point in these evocative and witty texts, with deflating put-downs in the last lines, everything brought out well by singer and the exemplary, precisely detailed accompaniments of Malcolm Martineau. It was perfect accord throughout, the two perfectly attuned, with split second timing in a unique work in the song repertoire which I consider amongst the highest peaks of Ravel's too small output. The Kingfisher brought a stillness and hush; we held our breath as did the narrator of this special experience. In her own language, Magdalena Kožená was in her element for Dvorak & Janacek, who was represented by five of the Moravian Folk Songs which he had collected an published, some with Bartok, during the extensive research which Kodaly, Bartok and Janacek did to preserve a disappearing heritage. Janacek's settings are spare and deceptively simple, but really very subtle, and of a type better known in Ravel's Greek Songs. Martineau evoked the hoofs of galloping horses and other countryside scenes to bring a splendid hour to a close. (42 of the Janacek Moravian Folk Poetry in Song can be heard in authentic performances by Czech singers with Radoslav Kvapil (Unicorn-Kanchana DKP 9154).

This was a concentrated and rewarding BBC lunch time concert, sold out as is often the way at Wigmore Hall, and well worth the journey to attend live. It was broadcast at the time (in emergency lighting because of a power cut) and is to be repeated on BBC R3, 7 January at 1.00p.m.

Peter Grahame Woolf


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