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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beauty abounds in a wonderful environment, but should there be more to these songs?
Magdalena Kozena should be in shock. It's no small event for a singer to make a solo album with the Berliners. In addition to this disc, she's taking the title role in Bizet's Carmen in Rattle's upcoming release, also with the Berliners. She's obviously won a place of high esteem, even from those other than her husband. But her accomplishment brings with it higher...
Published on 8 May 2012 by Andrew R. Barnard

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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Punch than Perfume
To convey the eroticism of Ravel and Mahler's profound melancholy, a mezzo soprano needs considerable talents. Magdalena Kozená has been gifted a superb voice, though her interpretative choices on this new disc are less refined. Husband Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker may provide a luxurious sonic envelope, but the content doesn't always live up to the...
Published on 13 Jun 2012 by Entartete Musik


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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beauty abounds in a wonderful environment, but should there be more to these songs?, 8 May 2012
By 
Andrew R. Barnard (Leola, Pa United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Magdalena Kozena should be in shock. It's no small event for a singer to make a solo album with the Berliners. In addition to this disc, she's taking the title role in Bizet's Carmen in Rattle's upcoming release, also with the Berliners. She's obviously won a place of high esteem, even from those other than her husband. But her accomplishment brings with it higher expectations. Does her singing contain enough individuality to demand attention?

Kozena certainly has a distinctive voice, if not as recognizable as some of the past greats. She has a rich, creamy sound that is welcome in these lyrical songs. Starting off with Dvorak's Biblical Songs, we find ourselves in a world of ecstasy. While her voice isn't as powerful as some of the old greats, she adopts a wide palate of color. Throughout Dvorak's changing moods, she is always heartfelt, often dripping with melancholy. But there's not much intensity. Rattle conducts with effortless control; we're in a world abounding with lovely sounds. My complaint is that there isn't enough passion.

Rattle has always had a natural gift with impressionistic music, so the prospect of hearing songs from Ravel's Shéhérazade is exciting. From the very opening, we realize that we'll be able to witness powerful musicians playing with poise. We're in a different world than the Dvorak, but Kozena retains her gracefulness. She and Rattle blend perfectly, achieving moments of sensuous rapture. Both of them have the flexibility essential for this music. Perhaps the temperature is too cool, but for me, this is the highlight of the disc.

In the Ruckert Leider, Kozena isn't as grand as Christa Ludwig with Karajan. I miss the older pairing's noble dignity. Instead we experience a dreamy, hazy approach. Beauty abounds, but I wish for more drama. Certainly we experience many touching moments. Rattle finds many hidden nuances in the score, with the Berliners' playing as wondrous as one would expect. The problem is that there's Ludwig/Karajan to compete with, so while this new version has its merits, it doesn't surpass the classic account. If our musicians could have given more soul, I would be more sympathetic.

How should we rate musicians who go for complete beauty but are short on drama? I'm not sure how to answer the question, as we experience wonderful things on occasion. Certainly there's potential for enjoyment. I do wish that such stellar musicians could have gone beyond the comfort of blissful sound, though.

[This is a revised version of my review, my original being more positive.]
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Punch than Perfume, 13 Jun 2012
By 
Entartete Musik (London) - See all my reviews
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To convey the eroticism of Ravel and Mahler's profound melancholy, a mezzo soprano needs considerable talents. Magdalena Kozená has been gifted a superb voice, though her interpretative choices on this new disc are less refined. Husband Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker may provide a luxurious sonic envelope, but the content doesn't always live up to the challenge.

Kozená's performance of Dvo'ák's Biblical Songs, a series of yearning sonic postcards, relish the tension between dolour and declamation. The throb of the orchestra underpins a natural percussiveness in the Czech language. And there's no better mezzo than Kozená to sing these songs at the moment. Shading passages, imbuing others with youthful zest, Kozená constantly responds to the text, making for well judged and captured performance.

But that slight edginess doesn't translate to either Shéhérazade or the Rückert Lieder. The former, while played with ravishingly sensuality, reveals a lack of vocal focus. With the truly luscious competition of Susan Graham, Anne Sofie von Otter and Renée Fleming on three recent recordings, Kozená's rendition falls short of Ravel's perfumed triptych.

And Mahler's affecting settings of Friedrich Rückert are oddly hasty. Kozená constantly anticipates Rattle's equable beat, which undermines the dark night of the soul in 'Um Mitternacht'. Singing its conclusion mars the earlier passages. And while the cor anglais playing in 'Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen' is wonderfully plaintive, it merely serves to underline Kozená's emotional shortcomings in this repertoire. After the succulent introspection of Janet Baker or Brigitte Fassbaender, these are somewhat cursory performances. A pity, when the Dvo'ák promised so much.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A love story, 28 July 2014
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Los críticos opinan que esta versión de los Rückert-Lieder es un tanto "almibarada" (honeyed, over-sweet), pero yo la encuentro maravillosa (especialmente, "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen"), y el "preciosismo" ultramundano le sienta bien a Mahler. El disco transpira la historia de amor que están viviendo la cantante y el director (Kozená y Rattle), un testimonio vital dentro y fuera de la grabación.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kozena and Rattle: a perfect partnership., 14 Sep 2012
By 
F. Conley (Folkestone, England) - See all my reviews
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I have heard both Magadalena Kozena and Simon Rattle in concert, so had a fair idea of what they can do. When I heard an excerpt from on of the Mahler "Ruckert Lieder", I knew that I wanted to hear the rest. The disc begins with the ten "Biblical Songs" by Dvorak, settings of the psalms which are not often heard. Kozena is obviously fully at home in her native language, but what is remarkable is her versatility and that of the Berlin Philharmonic in Ravel's "Sheherazade" and the Mahler cycle which ends the disc. Try to listen to the last track, Mahler's "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen". The cor anglais solo, Kozena's voice, Rattle's conducting make this an essential purchase for anyone who loves this music or the mezzo-soprano voice.
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