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Love And Longing (Ravel/Dvor k/Mahler)

3.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Magdalena Kozená's silken mezzo delivers definitive interpretations of this luscious and enchanting orchestral-song repertoire. Magdalena Kozená, Sir Simon Rattle, and the Berliner Philharmoniker seduce in Ravel's Shéhérazade, stir and awe in Dvořák's austere Biblische Lieder, and render to the fullest the bittersweet potency of Mahler's intricately orchestrated Rückert Lieder. Recorded live at the Berlin Philharmonie, these performances excite with the intense musical understanding shared by this husband and wife musical dream team. This release is destined to rival the popularity of Kozená and Rattle's enthralling Mozart collaboration. This is the first in a new series of recording projects reviving the legendary partnership between DG and the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Product Details

  • Orchestra: Berliner Philharmoniker
  • Conductor: Simon Rattle
  • Composer: Joseph-Maurice Ravel, Antonin Leopold Dvorak, Gustav Mahler
  • Audio CD (May 1, 2012)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Deutsche Grammophon
  • ASIN: B00766CN4W
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,918 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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This is probably a minority report, but I think this recording is a misfire. Other reviews on this page have commented on the seeming preference for sonic and vocal splendor over dramatic engagement in this performance, and I would concur with that, though I am increasingly frustrated by Kozena's strange and affected vocal production. The tendency to launch a "white" tone at the opening of nearly every note or phrase has become a mannerism, and while it is not so obtrusive in the more florid idiom of baroque music, which I think is Kozena's more congenial territory, in this repertoire the mannerism is distracting. It doesn't help that the interpretations here are very generalized, in fact almost comatose. (Rattle is no help whatsoever here.) I agree with another reviewer's comment that the Dvorak fares best, but there is real competition in the catalog -- not only Thomas Hampson but also Bernarda Fink and Dagmar Peckova, all of whom I would place before Kozena. The Mahler sounds like a sight-reading exercise, although with isolated lovely moments. Still, in view of the vast recorded archive of truly great performances of this music, this performance is not memorable, I'm afraid. As for the Ravel, alas, it is a disaster -- the absence of legato, to say nothing of the lack of any discernible "story-telling" capacity and dramatic involvement and the pasteurized rendition of the French tongue, makes hash of Ravel's soundscape. Even Kozena's very special timbre -- so remarkable at the outset of her career for its interesting combination of brilliance and dusky harmonics -- is only sporadically in evidence here; the voice too often sounds raw and abraded. I'll stay with Kozena's recent Vivaldi album -- it's a better testament to her powers.
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Format: Audio CD
In 1894, while residing in New York as director of the National Conservatory, Dvorak selected 10 texts of the Psalms and set them to music - music that reflects the meaning of the text while accommodating the cadences and syllables of the Czeck translation that he had chosen to use. Magdalena Kozena's voice is marvelous, but even better is her power of nuanced expression that brings the words to life. As she goes from one psalm text to the next, she covers the range from entreaty to hope, from fear to affirmations of trust, longing to fulfillment. The final song, one of joyous worship, is a particularly happy way to conclude the oeuvre. I can't understand anyone fully appreciating the work without a sympathetic reception of the text. One experienced reviewer's remark, that Thomas Hampson lights a fire under each song where Kozena doesn't, hardly seems relevant - I don't see emotional intensity as the right way to interpret every psalm, given the diversity of praise and prayers of the psalmists. If spirituality is the way, as I assume it is, it's good to know that Dvorak's music and biblical texts in the care of Rattle and Kozena become a spiritual experience.

Of Ravel's three songs here, Kozena sails through with her lovely voice in the two brief ones, 'La flûte enchantée' and 'L'Indifférent.' The first and most substantial song, 'Asie', has many beautiful moments where Kozena is in her element, but some of the highest notes sound forced. Yet when singing what is arguably the emotional peak of the text - "Je voudrais voir mourir d'amour ou bien de haine" - she ends with a superb high note like a true soprano, though she's a mezzo.
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Magdalena Kozena sings superbly on this CD of Dvorak, Ravel and Mahler. All are exquisite but I have found myself returning frequently to the Dvorak - Psalms sung in Czech. There might be better recordings of the Ravel but the Dvorak is unfamiliar territory for me and I recommend it highly.
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Format: Audio CD
How refreshing to have a recording of orchestral songs for the voice include both well-known jewels as well as introducing a set of songs not often performed. Much of this programming must be due to the fact that Magdalena Kozená's gift for intelligent programming equals her lush, richly produced mezzo soprano voice, a mezzo who truly does define the range, from contralto to lyric soprano all delivered without flaws or breaks in register. This creamy sensuous sound is well demonstrated in this perfect album, a recording in which her gifts are matched by her husband, conductor Simon Rattle and his Berlin Philharmonic.

Kozená opens this recital with Dvo'ák's `Biblische Lieder', orchestrated by Vilém Zemánek, a cycle rarely heard until now: surely after audiences hear these very fascinating works the demand for performances will increase. These Ten Biblical Songs (Czech: Biblické Písn'), opus 99, (1894) form a song cycle based on various Psalms taken from the Czech-language Bible of Kralice, arranged and slightly modified by the composer. Kozená and Rattle make them burst alive and there are many treasureable moments here.

Kozená's voice is perfectly suited to the glorious Shéhérazade of Maurice Ravel. She finds the earthy rapture, sails the ascending and descending lines with such security that the only important aspect is the beauty of Ravel's setting of the poems of Tristan Klingsor (pseudonym of Léon Leclère, 1874-1966). Rattle and the Berliners shimmer exotically in support of Kozená's spinning of the web of intrigue this cycle represents.

The final cycle here is Gustav Mahler's orchestrated version of Rückert Lieder.
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