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Sebastian BACH (1685 - 1750)
1. Et exsultavit spiritus meus. Magnificat BWV 243 [2.28]
2. Schafe können sicher weiden. Hunting Cantata BWV 208 [4.07]
3. Ich esse mit Freuden mein weniges Brot. Cantata BWV 84 [5.13]
4. Erbarme dich, mein Gott. St. Matthew Passion BWV 244 [7.34]
5. Wie starb die Heldin so vergnügt. Mourning Ode BWV 198 [3.39]
6. Verstumt,verstummt, ihr holden Saiten. Mourning Ode BWV 198 [3.39]
7. Wohl euch, ihr auserwählten Seelen. Cantata BWV 34 [5.08]
8. Komm,komm, mein Herze steht dir offen. Cantata BWV 74 [2.53]
9. Zerfliesse, mein Herz, in Fluten der Zähren. St. John Passion BWV 245 [6.43]
10. Kommt, ihr angefochtnen Sünder. Cantata BWV 30 [5.22]
11. Laudamus te. Mass in B Minor BWV 232 [4.22]

Magdalena Kozená (Mezzo-soprano)
Musica Florea (on authentic instruments)
Marek Štryncl (director)
Recorded Kromeriz Concert Hall July and Sept 1996 DDD
ARCHIV 457 367-2 [54.28]

Recently I reviewed a recital record by Magdalena Kozena singing Czech songs in which I concluded that "I would like to hear her in more familiar material. We will undoubtedly hear more of her". Like the proverbial 'bus, you don't get one for ages then two come along together. Well it seems like that - or almost. Here comes another recording by this young Czech born mezzo this time singing Bach arias. Due to the vagaries of the recording industry this new release (1996) actually pre-dates the other (of 1998) - but so what when there's a chance to hear a voice like this again.

The disc is a delight from start to finish. Eleven arias, some familiar, some not, but all showing off a voice to treasure and a singer with a world to conquer. Born in 1973 she has age on her side and will undoubtedly become a major name in the future. Miss Kozena is a mezzo with a splendid upper range and a warm timbre to her voice and in this selection we hear what she can do with this exceptional instrument.

Someone, somewhere knows something about record production - at least as far as selection of material goes and this compilation is a well-judged affair. One quibble, though, with it - for this day and age I had hoped the 54' 28" CD was dead or at least reserved for re-issues. It is a miserly issue in that respect. Et exultavit set the pattern for the rest of the disc with its display of warmth allied to technique, followed by what we all recognise as Sheep may safely graze sung ravishingly with a soaring soprano-like top to the simplest of accompaniments. A quicker piece, chosen presumably by design, Ich esse led into Have mercy, Lord from St. Matthews Passion sung with considerable expressiveness denoting a musical intelligence behind the technique. Two extracts from BWV 198 - the Mourning Ode - Wie starb die Heldin showed us to hear exemplary breath control on the sustained "starb" and the following Verstummt, verstummt ihr holden Saiten demonstrated an upper register worthy of a true soprano. Three pieces -Woll euch, Komm, komm and Kommt ihr angefochten Sünder added support to my overwhelmingly favourable views. The lengthy extract from St.John's Passion Dissolve then, heart, in floods of tears was outstanding - technique, voice and interpretation in a splendid blend.. The closing Laudamus te from the B Minor Mass showed a singer with a real sense of style and a feel for Bach.

A word of praise for the Musica Florea - a Czechslovak original instrument ensemble. Their playing was consistently sympathetic and wonderfully supportive and added enormously to the pleasure the disc gave. The recording is beautifully clear and just on odd occasions does the balance slightly hide the voice - a genuinely minor quibble.


Harry Downey

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