15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 26 January 2002
In many ways this is the standard recital that one would expect from a singer involved in this kind of repertoire on stage. Just a year ago, Susan Graham presented a disc with similar material, though Graham limited herself to Mozart and Gluck 'standards', while Kozena added four tracks of music by a Bohemian composer, Mozart's friend, Josef Myslivecek. Comparison between the two singers is not entirely out of place; Kozena's vibrant voice often reminds me of Graham's, though the latter is certainly a much stronger and more full-bodied instrument. Graham, whose gorgeous voice seems to flow more effortlessly and whose diction is much more secure than Kozena's, has all the makings of a master of vocal colouring, but she is surprisingly pallid, particularly in Gluck. Kozena has to work much harder (especially at the top) than Graham to produce this glowing tone but somehow brings much more life to her interpretations. I was complaining about her Handel disc where her lack of security resulted in some exaggerated recitativi and colourless interpretations of arias. Most of my quibbles disappear here. Kozena manages to sustain the dramatic tension impressively: she is less aggressive, yet more eloquent. She is also able to carry on the tension from the recitative into the aria itself and seems more comfortable with the language to colour whole sentences, not just single words. Still, she (and the music) would have profited from more relaxed tempi as her diction is slightly muddled.
Again, Kozena is at her best in slow, contemplative arias, such as the hauntingly lovely - and sadly rarely recorded - "Le belle immagini" from Gluck's "Paride ed Elena". She is also good at more virtuoso pieces, like the military aria from Myslivecek's "Antigona", Argene's aria from his "Olimpiade" or in some of the Mozart. My only serious problem with all this lovely singing is that I have to keep reminding myself that most arias here are from trouser roles. Kozena started with a rather low voice and trouser roles were a natural choice for her, so today it is hard not to sympathize with her when she talks with obvious excitement about the growing number of female roles that she is soon to sing (including Melisande). Her voice is so feminine that most of her vocal incarnations don't have the necessary masculine twist. Some of them, with more neutral texts, like "Le belle immagini" work perfectly, others would profit from more masculine touches or at least from more energetic singing.
But if we forget about the 'confusion' of genders, it is a lovely, if not always particularly memorable recital. Kozena really shines in Myslivecek! She seems particularly eager to share her excitement about performing this music. One of the reasons may be the fact that those are mostly female roles which really suit Kozena's voice perfectly. I have never heard any music by Myslivecek before and those samples here are nice surprises. None of them are outstanding, but they give a good idea of Myslivecek's considerable skills which were apparently admired by his contemporaries, including Mozart. My favorite track (and one of my very favorites of the whole disc, next to "Le belle immagini") is Sara's aria from "Abramo ed Isacco", with an interesting orchestral accompaniment. Here Kozena is really touching in her depiction of Sara's despair. Argene's aria from the 1st act of "L'Olimpiade" is a charming piece and Kozena sings it graciously, missing only some of the irony and bitterness that the text asks for. Actually, I've yet to hear irony and humour in her singing...
If I could redesign the programme, I would add a few more arias by the Bohemian composer (there were apparently 6 tracks of Myslivecek planned for this CD) and leave out some of the Mozart, especially "Voi che sapete" which sounds quite undercharacterized, though Kozena sung Cherubino on stage, apparently to great acclaim. I understand that young singers are under pressure from their record companies to focus on mainstream repertoire and only occasionally are they able to smuggle some dusty jewels into their programmes, so Kozena's achievement - even as it is - is worth the highest praise. I don't know what criteria decided the choice of the arias, but it would be particularly interesting to hear something that is known from settings by other composers. Half of Myslivecek's operas were written to Metastasio's texts, among them "La Clemenza di Tito". The fact is also mentioned in the booklet but with no musical illustration so we get two 'Clemenza' arias by Mozart, one by Gluck and none by Myslivecek! A real pity then! I can't think of a better way of promoting the composer than giving listeners the opportunity to compare his settings of a text to those of others. But let's trust Kozena's musical judgement here...
The orchestral accompaniment is lively though at times more transparency wouldn't hurt. In general, all tempi are quite hectic, sometimes to the detriment of the music. It is well illustrated by Gluck's gorgeous aria "Se mai senti...", where the miscalculated tempo and lumpy playing deprive the music of its character. To compare Kozena's interpretation to Bartoli's is probably pointless. Moreover, I am afraid that the quickish pace here is not the effect of an 'artistic decision' but rather an overreaction to the agonizingly slow (and murderous!) but terribly effective tempo adopted by Bartoli. It is a lament based on the metaphor of dying breath and the tempo is imposed by the words. Still, it is such a wonderful aria and it is great to hear it included in this recital. There is also rather routine accompaniment in the recitative to "Il tenero momento", where the heartbreaking last line - simply rushed through - loses its power, but in the aria itself the orchestra and conductor redeem themselves with some delightful playing.
A satisfying recital then, worth getting for the exciting new material (Myslivecek and Gluck) and for some lovely, if not always idiomatic Mozart singing. (Kicek)
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 20 August 2003
Lots of sopranos and mezzos do Mozart, but not all have the subtlety really needed. Kozena has a Mozart voice and is near comparable to Kiri Te Kanawa. The CD has an interesting set of songs from composers with a connection to Prague and illustrates progressions in the Italian opera style from central European composers during the 18th century. Myslivecek is less well known and Kozena interprets his music and that of Gluck with beauty
14 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 16 January 2002
Before listening to this CD I was lamenting the lack of an upcoming "special voice".
NO LONGER Magdalena's voice is stunning, her interpretation sensational.
The tears rolled, the wine flowed and I left the world behind.