Mezzo Magdalena Kožená returns with another early music adventure on Archiv Production after her highly acclaimed Vivaldi album: Kožená explores the early Italian Baroque music of Claudio Monteverdi with rewarding results. Inspired by the improvisational nature of much of this music, Kožená reveals yet another aspect of her musical personality with selections from L’incoronazione di Poppea, Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda and more.
Orfeo ed Euridice (1762) represents the first of a series of operatic successes by the German composer Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck (1714-1787). It is his best-known opera and his greatest reform work (first performed in Vienna on 5 October 1762). Gluck broke every courtly convention governing the operatic art form of the time. He strove for naturalness and simplicity in both subject and music. Gluck liberated opera from its rigid confines, refrained from the pointless embellishment of arias, and replaced the recitativo secco with orchestral recitatives or recitativo accompagnato, creating through-composed forms of unprecedented drama. He also gave lyricism a greater significance in relation to the music. Gluck's importance in opera's overall history is matched only by Claudio Monteverdi, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Wagner…
J S Bach wrote a bunch of cantatas (hundreds) and most of them on very short notice (usually, one week), all the while fathering a bunch of kids, and being this Giant of Western Music. No easy task. That so many of these cantatas turned out to be sublime, is nothing short of miraculous. On this video we got three such Bach cantatas, performed by the English Baroque soloists (orchestra), the Monteverdi Choir, and mezzo soprano Magdalena Kozena, all conducted by John Elliot Gardiner. For those of you whose interest is casual, please note that this ensemble and conductor are pretty much at the pinnacle of contemporary Bach performance–I am not hard put to think of words to describe their work: grace, nobility, sensitivity, and especially, a perceived commitment to the work performed by every person involved.
The new recording from Magdalena Kožená features deeply-felt interpretations of sacred songs from the Baroque to the 20th Century. In a rare recording collaboration, she is joined by virtuoso Christian Schmitt, in music for voice and organ from the sacred traditions of Germany, Austria, France and England, as well as her native Czechoslovakia. Of course, the album includes music by J.S. Bach – a composer with whom Magdalena Kožená has long been associated - with sacred aspects of German song represented by Hugo Wolf and Schubert.
"I would be very hard pressed to find another single recording of this high quality that so clearly demonstrates the musicality of the Bach family." ~American Record Guide
"If anyone has recorded a lovelier Mozart recital in recent years, I've yet to hear it. In her early thirties, Kozená is now consummate mistress of her art. Her liquid high mezzo, with its easy upward extension, combines warmth with the bloom and freshness of youth, while her coloratura, on display in 'Al desio di chi t'adora' . . . is as brilliant and expressive as Bartoli's, yet without the Italian diva's intrusive aspirates . . . Fortepianist Jos van Immerseel is an equally sympathetic partner in an impassioned yet intimate performance . . ." ~Gramophone
Sir Charles Mackerras leads a fine performance of Mozart's last opera seria, a work that should be far better appreciated than it is. Full of dignity and poise, aria follows duet follows aria, fascinatingly scored, and exactly the correct length. The numbers are expressive and filled with the information we need to know these characters. Sesto, a travesty role, is taken by Magdalena Kozena, who follows in the footsteps of Teresa Berganza, Cecilia Bartoli, and Anne Sofie von Otter and proves their equal. Her gorgeous voice and technique shine through. –Robert Levine