M. Kožená, Songs My Mother Taught Me, M. Martineau, D. Röschmann, M. Freimuth
(released on April 14, 2009)
Deutsche Grammophon 477 6665
Antonín Dvořák, Gypsy Songs, op. 55
On the basis of the three Moravian folk songs by Janáček, especially no. 50 (Muzikanti, a little drunken serenade to some musicians, asking them to play), one wishes that Kožená would record the entire set. Sometimes, though, the delights that can be discovered in the mixed recital are irresistible. Singers looking for something off the beaten path to spruce up a plain program should definitely have a listen, although if you think German diction is complicated, Czech will tie your tongue in knots. There are worthy discoveries, like the folksongs from the Těšínsko region by Erwin Schulhoff, light-hearted pieces with a sad heart (a spirit-lifting counterpoint to the emotional devastation of another recent disc of Czech music), while the lute songs by Petr Eben (1929-2007), performed here with guitarist Michael Freimuth, are more like ear-candy. This disc is not likely to bowl anyone over, since it is more urbane than showy, but finely tooled renditions of Dvořák's Moravian duets (with the beautifully matched voice of Dorothea Röschmann) and Martinů's Songs on Two Pages (in the same vein as the same composer's Bergerettes, reviewed earlier this week) are to be savored.
Magdalena Kožená will appear at the Austrian Embassy tonight (May 6, 7:30 pm) with pianist Karel Košárek, a recital presented by the Vocal Arts Society. Although her program includes Schumann, Purcell, Duparc, and Berg, perhaps there will be some Czech folk songs served up as encores.