Listening to Soirée: Magdalena Kožená & Friends, a handsome new album from Pentatone I was struck by how youthful and fresh-voiced the 56-year old Czech mezzo-soprano sounds in this entertaining collection of songs by Chausson, Ravel, Stravinsky, Brahms, Strauss and her Czech compatriots Antonín Dvořák and Leoš Janáček.
The silvery lyric mezzo is very much there, as is Kožená’s gift for spinning a phrase with flawles legato. It goes without saying that she is at her very best in the folk-rooted songs of Dvořák and Janáček, several of them new to this listener, although that is not to say that her renditions of Chanson perpétuelle and Chansons Madécasses are nothing but lovely and idiomatically French.
A very fine ensemble that includes Sir Simon Rattle at the piano accompanies Lady Rattle in all but one of the songs, Richard Strauss’ Morgen, which brings the album to a peaceful, heartfelt ending.
With top of the line recordings by heavyweight violinists Sara Chang, Maxim Vengerov, Hillary Hahn, Frank Peter Zimmermann, Gil Shaham, and Pinchas Zukerman, and with Oistrahk’s and Heifetz’ vintage LP’s casting their long shadows on this unreasonably difficult masterpiece, it is no wonder that every fiddler worth his resin will succumb to the temptation to take on Sibelius’ one and only violin concerto.
A Mount Everest of a composition, it took several failed attempts to deliver a satisfying premiere of Sibelius’ violin concerto in D Minor, Opus 47. So it is not surprising that the formidable Christian Tetzlaff took up the challenge, pairing it with the Beethoven violin concerto in D Major, Op. 61. He recorded it with the Deutsche Symphonie Orchester Berlin for the Ondine label, with the meteorically-rising Robin Ticciati at the helm.
The splendid results evidence careful attention to Sibelius’ precisely annotated and fluctuating tempo markings and time signatures. Beyond all that, depth of feeling and keen intellectual insight separate this recording of both the often heard Beethoven and the somewhat rare Sibelius from many in the pack.
We received an intriguing CD – New York Rising. It features the New Hudson Saxophone Quartet in a recital of music by American and English composers Joseph Trapanese, Aaron Copland, Robert Sirota, Percy Grainger and David Noon.
Four formidable musicians: Paul Cohen, Avi Goldrosen, David Demsey, and Tim Ruedeman respectively on soprano, alto, tenor and baritone saxophones play as one with extraordinary blending, flawless precision, and elegant musicality, with guest players Christopher Brellochs and Ulrich Krieger in works that range from the evocative New York Rising by Joseph Trapanese, to Copland’s moving and deeply American Suite from Our Town, to Robert Sirota’s whimsical, jazzy and hunger-inducing Diners, to Percy Grainger’s fado-like Lisbon, to David Noon’s intricately compelling Saxophone Quartet #1, to an exquisite rendition of Copland’s Simple Gifts.
The CD is available directly from Paul Cohen (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rafael de Acha http://www.RafaelMusicNotes.com