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Songs My Mother Taught Me
Kebych bola jahodú [1:06]
Leoš JANÁČEK (1854-1938)
Moravská lidová poezie v písních (Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs) JW 5/2 Book 1 (1892) Book 2 (1901)

Lavečka [1:56]
Jabúčko [1:51]
Muzikanti [1:28]
Slezské písně ze sbírky Heleny Salichové
Aj co to je za slaviček [4:32]
V černym lese [0:54]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841-1904)
Cikánské melodie (Zigeunermelodien) op.55 B.104 (1880)
Když mne stará matka [Songs my mother taught me] [2:42]
Struna naladěna [1:07]
A les je tichý kolem kol [3:01]
Evening Songs op.3 B.61 (c.1876)
Mně zdálo se žes umřela [4:06]
Moravské dvojzpĕ (Moravian Duets) Op.32 B.62 (1876) ˛
Prsten [2:17] *
Zajatá  [3:13] *
Ervin (Erwin) SCHULHOFF (1894-1942)
Národni pisně a tance Těšínska (Folksongs and Dances from the Tesinskso Region) WV120
Pasala volky [1:47]
Když sem byla mamince klině [0:42]
Sidej na vuz  [4:03]
Petr EBEN (1929-2007)
Pisně k Loutně ą
Milovánie bez vídánie [1:14]
I dare not ask [1:13]
Quand ce beau printemps [1:59]
Ach Gott wie weh tut scheiden [2:57]
Jakž sem tě najprv poznal [0:43]
Stratilať sem milého [3:03]
Jan Josef RÖSLER (1771-1813)
An die Entfernte [4:13]
Vítězslav NOVÁK (1870-1949)
Pohádka Srdce op.8 (1896)
Piseň melancholická [2:07]
Zda není snem? [2:50]
Večer [1:33]
Podzimní nálada [1:35]
Až přejde den [3:10]
Bohuslav MARTINŮ (1890-1959)
Moravská lidová poesie v písních ( Songs on two pages seven songs an Moravian folk poetry)
Děvče z Moravy [1:13]
Súsedova stajňa [0:52]
Naděje [2:36]
Hlásný [0:57]
Tájna láska [1:00]
Boží muka [1:08]
Zvolenovci chlapci [1:00]
Magdalena Kožená (mezzo)
Malcolm Martineau (piano)
Michael Freimuth (guitar) ą
Dorothea Röschmann (soprano) ˛
rec. Bavaria Musikstudios, March 2007
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 4776665 [70:17] 


Experience Classicsonline

Magdalena Kožená is currently touring with pretty much this same programme, giving recitals in the biggest halls – the Barbican in London for instance not the Wigmore Hall, which she could doubtless sell out six or seven times over. It’s a measure of her international esteem that she can do so, especially with things such as Novák’s Op.8 Pohádka Srdce and Eben’s Pisně k Loutně which are very much not expected fare, and therefore all the more to be valued – both in recital and, as here, on disc.

Back in 2000 she released an all-Czech disc for DG called Love Songs (see review) which included works by Dvořák – his Love Songs op.83 - and folk songs by Janáček and Martinů. This latest entrant if anything both expands and deepens the immersion in Bohemian and – given her Brno birthplace – Moravian music. Once again the repertoire will prove enticing for those whose tastes run beyond the mainstream. 

She starts with what she admits is a specialised performance of the unaccompanied traditional folksong Kebych bola jahodú in which she colours, contours and shades the voice in a myriad of ways. It’s a deliberately rougher, more ‘authentic’ sounding al fresco and spontaneous sounding affair – or at least that, I assume, is the intent. For all one’s appreciation of her singing though there are some observations to be made later on. The first group of three Janáček Moravian folksongs contains Muzikanti which has always seemed to me to be a raucous man’s song. Never mind that though, why the ruinous caesuri that hobble the flow of the song so self-consciously? Both she and Malcolm Martineau manage to impede its gusto brilliantly. Added to which the vocal scoops sound contrived and, dare one say it, ugly. In a song such as this less is surely more – the more you play around with it the more dead you’ll kill it. The pick of the three Dvořák Cikánské melodie is No.3 A les je tichy kolem kol which I prefer, as an interpretation, to the ubiquitous Když mne stará matka. 

She sings three Schulhoff songs extracted from his Národni pisně a tance Těšínska reserving a richer, thicker vibrato for them, especially No.15 Když sem byla mamince klině. But I part company in No.4 Sidej na vuz - a long setting, which finds her in unsettled voice, vibrating too much and obscuring the diction. A native Czech speaker with whom I was listening could barely make out any of the words. It’s a beautiful song though.

The Eben songs are delightful, managing to evoke for example, in the Herrick setting, an English lute song - Michael Freimuth is the eloquent guitarist. Elsewhere there is a scherzo-like and folkloric Jakž sem tě najprv poznal and the limpid reflectiveness of the last of the six, Stratilať sem milého. The Novák songs are rare; they’re early too, being his Op.8. They run from being couched in melancholy late Romanticism to the urgent nature setting of the fourth. The five little songs end with a reflective romance, which embodies a typically beautiful Novák melody line. The Martinů songs are bright, vital little gems, most about a minute long. The wan religiosity of Boží muka is especially delightfully and splendidly conveyed, whilst No.7 Zvolenovci chlapci strikes a rather Janáček-like pose. To add to the brew there is an early song by the Viennese inclined Rösler – who may be better remembered these days for his string quartets – and a couple of the Moravian duets elegantly performed by Kožená and Dorothea Röschmann.

A summary then. Very necessary for Novák; less so perhaps Schulhoff admirers if only because we only have a few of the songs; valuable whetting of appetite for Rösler; top drawer Eben cycle excellently realised; very variable Dvořák and Janáček; wish we could have had more of the Martinů. Above all Kožená here values the selective over the exhaustive. Some of these folkloric cycles are extensive and it would be too much to take them on single-handed. Wisely a modest selectivity is at work.

There are text translations from Czech into English, French and German – except the Eben songs when the composer set the original language texts. The notes are rather skimpy as to the works concerned. Though I’m sometimes frustrated by her singing I nevertheless applaud wholeheartedly the way Kožená promotes her homeland’s music in this thoughtful and imaginative way.

Jonathan Woolf




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