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Nostalgia (Magdalena Kožená)

Magdalena Kožená (mezzo-soprano), Yefim Bronfman (piano) (Pentatone)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
PTC5186777_Bartok

Nostalgia
Bartók: Village Scenes; Brahms: Lieder; Musorgsky: The Nursery
Magdalena Kožená (mezzo-soprano), Yefim Bronfman (piano)
Pentatone PTC 5186 777   64:08 mins

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‘Nostalgia’ seems a peculiar title for a recital that exists very much in the moment. There’s not the slightest sentimentality in either the music in this programme or the way it is performed here. Bartók’s scenes are earthy, folky, celebratory of their roots deep in Hungarian peasant life; Musorgsky’s The Nursery is anything but rose-tinted in its view of childhood, the Russian composer as ever holding up a microscope to the lurid, on-the-brink colours of life. As for Brahms, he invites a feast of vocal and pianistic splendour – and gets it, too, in these larger-than-life interpretations by Magdalena Kožená and Yefim Bronfman.

Kožená’s voice is a glory at the best of times, a coppery sunset of a tone that can send its glow across the whole sky. But if her voice is gigantic, one thing is bigger still, and it’s Bronfman’s pianism, which almost manages to overwhelm her at certain points in the Brahms and Musorgsky songs. His sound matches hers in richness and they seem to have a streamlined conceptual understanding, but sometimes one can’t help wanting him to scale it back a bit.

In Bartók’s ‘Wedding’ the pair create the impression of a teeming village hall, and Brahms songs like ‘Meine liebe ist grün’ and ‘Von ewige Liebe’ shine out like miniature operas. Yet generally this recording, which is enhanced by a good and quite resonant sound, is missing just one thing: the sense of intimacy that can be so beneficial in creating a totally satisfying Lieder recital.

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Jessica Duchen