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Antonín DVORÁK (1841 - 1904)
Písne milostné (Love Songs) Op. 83 [14.36]
Ctvero písní (Four Songs) Op.2 [ 8.47]
V národním tónu. (In Folk Tone) Op. 73 [ 3.38]
Bohuslav MARTINU
(1890 - 1959)
Nový Spalícek (New Miniatures) [ 9.24]
Mélodies pour une amie de mon pays * [ 4.24]
(World Première recording)*
(1854 - 1928)
Moravská lidová poesie v písních (Moravian Folk Poetry in Somgs). [ 8.29]
Magdalena Kozená (mezzo-soprano) Graham Johnson (piano)
Recorded London. Rosslyn Hill Chapel 10 / 1998 DDD DG 463 472-2 [67.30]

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Magdalena Kozená is a Czech-born mezzo-soprano (Brno, 1973) and if her photograph does not flatter she is a strikingly attractive blonde. She has sung at the Vienna Volksoper and at Drottingholm and has made a number of recordings - for Suprapaphon, ASV and Archiv that have had some low-key but favourable reviews. This is her first solo recital recording and it is for Archiv's parent company Deutsche Grammophon. Her partner on the CD is Graham Johnson, well known to most record buyers, and her accompanist regularly since 1998.

Naturally enough she has chosen a collection of songs by Czech composers for her solo debut, and, equally understandably, everything is sung in Czech. As DG have provided the full text in English, German and French no listener is likely to struggle to understand. 42 songs are on the disc and inevitably most of them are short - they range from a mere 27" to 3'38" - and they are grouped with the preponderant Dvorak selection framing the Martinu and Janacek songs.

Kozena's voice is easy on the ear. It is rich and well defined, fresh, youthful, and even throughout her range and with a bright top. She really does sing beautifully, every word utterly distinct and though there is little call for characterisation on this disc - one has the feel that when needed the skill would be there. Graham Johnson is his usual self - I don't need to say more really, other than to praise his share of the partnership. That's what it is, not the rather patronising description (it seems to me) - singer and accompanist.

I enjoyed the record a lot even though at times the selection did not retain the interest. The selection of the material is perhaps the weak point of this otherwise highly enjoyable recording. The recital format needs to engage the listener throughout and some mundane songs failed to do this. The Janacek selection and the Martinu groups were the pick of the items but somehow parts of the Dvorak selection as a whole were uninspiring - which I put down to choice rather than a failing in performance. In recording terms the DG engineers have everything just about right on the disc.

Miss K. clearly has a good future ahead of her and I would like to hear her in more familiar material. We will undoubtedly hear more of her.


Harry Downey


Harry Downey

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