Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená (photo by Mathias Bothor / DG)
The second half concluded with a serene reading of Schumann's Frauenliebe und -leben, the womanly song cycle reviewed yesterday in some new recordings. Kožená was all golden radiance in the opening song, presenting the narrator's blind devotion to the man she loves with no trace of the postmodern irony that can sometimes creep into modern performances. If you are really irritated by the servile tone of the poetry, then it is best just to avoid this cycle, because unless one believes in the woman's self-humbling love -- Chamisso even has her echo the devotion of the Virgin Mary to God's call in the first stanza of the third song -- the cycle does not make much sense. Kožená's performance is not likely to make one forget better recordings, with the high note near the end of Helft mir, ihr Schwestern running out of gas, for example. There were many memorable moments, however, including the simplicity of Süßer Freund, du blickest, so hushed in the third stanza, and the excitement of An meinem Herzen, an meiner Brust, almost leading her to dance up and down with joy, and the straight-toned knife edge of the high note on the words "Die Welt ist leer" in the final song. In a sense Kožená's Frauenliebe was as ethereal and disembodied as Marie-Nicole Lemieux's was earthy.
Anne Midgette, Kozena Presents Love, Detachment (Washington Post, May 8)
The remaining recitals on the Vocal Arts Society season will feature soprano Laura Stuart and baritone Steven Combs, with pianist R. Timothy McReynolds in a free concert at the Kennedy Center's Millennium Stage (May 11, 6 pm), and baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes with pianist Craig Rutenberg at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater (May 12, 7:30 pm).