Wagner, Brahms, Zemlinsky, Schoenberg

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Brahms,Schoenberg,Wagner,Zemlinsky
LABELS: Supraphon
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Dagmar Pecková
WORKS: Wesendonck Lieder; Alto Rhapsody; Six Maeterlinck Songs; Lied der Waldtaube
PERFORMER: Dagmar Pecková (mezzo-soprano); Prague Philharmonia & Philharmonic Choir/Jirí Belohlávek
CATALOGUE NO: SU 3417-2
A new disc from the spirited Czech mezzo-soprano Dagmar Pecková is always something to look forward to; and this latest release offers a particularly tempting programme. In her distinctively dark, winey voice, Pecková bares the heart of Brahms, Wagner, Zemlinsky and Schoenberg, and reveals much about their musical interfertilisation.

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Jirí Belohlávek works frequently with Pecková, notably in their fine Mahler performances and recordings: he knows the nuances of her voice well enough to balance meticulously the textures and pacing of his orchestral soloists and ensemble. In the Wesendonck Lieder this yields a particularly finely drawn ‘Im Treibhaus’.

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The Prague Philharmonia, founded by Belohlávek, is essentially a chamber orchestra: neither plush nor high polish is a priority here, but rather quick, alert responses, well tuned to Pecková’s own ardent performances. There are times, particularly in Schoenberg’s ‘Song of the Wood Dove’, when one could wish the balance engineers had been a little more generous to the orchestra. But, as Expressionism meets Symbolism in Zemlinsky’s settings of Maeterlinck, the Six Songs are perfectly scaled, with Pecková’s voice both warm and gleamingly clear in its melodic delineation of much that is rich and strange in this cycle of fugitive scenae, lit by the most delicate orchestral palette. Finally, in dark, numb vowels, Pecková eloquently evokes the empty desolation of Goethe’s physical and spiritual wilderness in Brahms’s Alto Rhapsody. Hilary Finch