WORKS: Love Songs, Op. 83; Four Songs, Op. 2; In Folk Tone, Op. 73
PERFORMER: Magdalena Kožená (mezzo-soprano); Graham Johnson (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 463 472-2
Magdalena Kožená is at the forefront of a new wave of Czech singers. Though at an age when many singers are still studying, her voice has maturity, depth and flexibility, and her diction is impeccable – every reason to bring qualities that already have made a deep impression in a number of recordings of Baroque music to the Czech song repertoire, too often treated as something National Theatre stars do in their spare time.
The results, supported by perceptive and idiomatic accompaniment from Graham Johnson, are enormously impressive. Dvorák’s love songs – mature revisions of his very first song cycle, Cypresses – transform the base metal of overly sentimental poetry into expressive gold. Kožená responds to their disarming freshness and originality with a ready and penetrating intelligence; just listen to her rapturous account of the second of Four Songs, Op. 2. Her way with the Janácek and Martinu, including the premiere recording of four recently discovered, mercurial Erben settings, is also thrillingly attractive. This magnificent debut recital not only scores by giving us captivating, little-known repertoire: the conviction and exhilarating engagement of its young singer provides abundant evidence that Czech singing is again becoming a force to be reckoned with.