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Marek Štryncl & Musica Florea
Bach Arias with Magdalena Kožená

Recording

C-1

J.S. Bach: Arias

1.
Aria for Alto (Mvt. 5) from Cantata BWV 30 [5:22]
Aria for Alto (Mvt. 3) from Cantata BWV 34 [5:08]
Aria for Soprano (Mvt. 2) from Cantata BWV 74 [2:53]
Aria for Soprano (Mvt. 3) from Cantata BWV 84 [5:13]
Aria for Soprano (Mvt. 3) from Cantata BWV 198 [7:00]
Aria for Alto (Mvt. 5) from Cantata BWV 198 [3:39]
Aria for Soprano (Mvt. 9) from Cantata BWV 208 [4:07]
Laudamus te (Mvt. 6) from Mass in B minor BWV 232 [4:22]
Et exsultavit spiritus meus (Mvt. 2) from Magnificat BWV 243 [2:28]
Aria for Alto Erbarme dich, mein Gott (Mvt. 39) from Matthäus-Passion BWV 244
Aria for Soprano Zerfliesse, mein Herze, in Fluten der Zähren (Mvt. 35) from Johannes-Passion BWV 245
2.
Aria for Soprano (Mvt. 3) from Cantata BWV 1 [4:42]
Aria for Soprano (Mvt. 2) from Cantata BWV 14 [4:40]
Aria for Alto (Mvt. 3) from Cantata BWV 70 [4:38]

Marek Štryncl

Musica Florea

Mezzo-Soprano: Magdalena Kožená

Archiv Produktion /
Archiv & Concentus Moraviae

July, Sep 1996

CD / TT: 54:28
CD / TT: 68:18

The last 3 arias [2] are included only in the original issue of the CD by a co-production of Archiv and Concentus Moraviae 1997 (right picture). Recorded at Concert Hall, Kromĕřĭž, Czech Republic.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

Mini-review: Bach Arias by Magdalena Kozena

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 23, 2002):
Following my "discovery" of Magdalena Kozena's recording of cantata BWV 199 on
the Gardiner DVD, I ordered her disc of Bach Arias, on Archiv, recorded in 1997. This may not be widely available outside of Europe, since it is listed as being released by PolyGram Prague.

After a first listen, my initial feelings about this singer have been confirmed. I am rarely, if never so enamored of individual singers, but there is something about her voice that is both moving and sensual. In spite of some issues of diction, which Tom brought up on the list, I find she has perhaps the most attractive soprano voice I have yet heard singing Bach. She has the restraint and humility that this spiritual music calls for, but does not hesitate to inject a great deal of emotion into her singing. Seeing here on the BWV 199 DVD, it was obvious how much of herself she puts into her singing. Hearing her in this collection confirms this.

The selection of arias is excellent - from cantatas, to the Magnificat, to the Passions, many of the most famous and most attractive arias are here. Alas, it is only 54 minutes long - I would be delighted to have another 20 minutes of here amazing voice.

IMO, this is a voice to watch in coming years. I hope she records more Bach.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 23, 2002):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Kirk, it's not simply a matter of diction, but rather improper vocal techniques that need to be corrected. Listen to the 2nd track (Sheep may safely graze) and what do you hear, when she sings the longer, sustained notes of which there are quite a few in this piece? She will attack a note softly and sweetly (which is fine) but then resort to a sudden thrusting (increase in volume) which is anything but pleasant to listen to. What is missing is the gradual increase of volume. It is as though she suddenly remembers in the middle of singing a truly beautiful note which she attacks tenderly and sings warmly, that it is time to increase the volume of her voice before the note value expires. She then jerks the volume level from soft to loud in a split second. Frequently this occurs at the release of a note (which then can be attributed to actual consonant or vowel release - this is when it becomes a problem of diction as well as vocal sound production.) This can become a bumpy ride as you perceive the entire musical phrase. Listen to track 9, the "Zerfließe" aria from the SMP: there is simply too much up and down vocal modulation on the individual notes, thus the arch of the phrase becomes uneven and calls attention to the individual parts of it. This is not "the restraint and humility that this spiritual music calls for." She can control this when she wants to (the soft long notes on track 4 ("Erbarme dich, mein Gott")). This is beautifully done as long as she sings sotto voce, which is fine on the first few long notes, but as soon as she pushes her voice to its limit, this quirk appears and we're back to her personal voice problem: a sudden thrusting in the middle or the end of a note. This does not always appear, as she modulates through different ranges of expression. Her soft and sweet side of the voice is indeed remarkable and I can be in seventh heaven listening to this aspect of her artistry, but when it comes to the matter of releasing the notes or thrusting suddenly in the middle of one, this type of vocal control, or lack thereof, prevents her from becoming the truly great soprano voice suited for singing Bach in our time.

Since this is a fairly early Bach recording (1996) of hers, it would be unfair to judge her alone from her first (most likely earliest professional) recordings of Bach. But 4 years later on the Bach Pilgrimage, there was not much improvement, perhaps even degradation in the control of this aspect of her voice. It appears to me that in the intervening years, no one (vocal coach, conductor, or otherwise) even attempted to suggest to her what she would need to work on to improve her voice in order to sing Bach properly without idiosyncratic vocal techniques interfering with the presentation of Bach's glorious music.

Let's hope that this voice can still be 'saved' for the glorious purpose of presenting Bach's music on a higher level than almost all the other sopranos (most of which are half-voices and do not truly sing with a full voice) that are being recorded presently.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 23, 2002):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Listen to track 9, the "Zerfließe" aria from the SMP: there is simply too much up and down vocal modulation on the individual notes, thus the arch of the phrase becomes uneven and calls attention to the individual parts of it. >
Yes, I hear what you are saying, though I don't find it as bothersome as you do.

Ricardo Nughes wrote (January 23, 2002):
Kirk McElhearn wrote (referring to M.Kozena):
< IMO, this is a voice to watch in coming years. I hope she records more Bach. >
She'll be in the forthcoming P. McCreesh recording of the SMP (OVPP-SSAATTBB).

Furthermore DG has just released a Mozart-Gluck arias recital cd. Large info, featuring audio clips at DG site.

William Kasimer wrote (January 23, 2002):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< Following my "discovery" of Magdalena Kozena's recording of cantata
BWV 199 on the Gardiner DVD, I ordered her disc of Bach Arias, on Archiv, recorded in 1997. This may not be widely available outside of Europe, since it is listed as being released by PolyGram Prague. >
When it firappeared, it was available in Czechoslovakia and Canada, for some odd reason - that's where I obtained my copy of it. I'm surprised that Universal hasn't taken advantage of her rapidly growing reputation, and issued it more widely.

Her new CD of Mozart, Gluck, and Myslivecek (I think that's the name) is equally stunning.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 23, 2002):
Riccardo Nughes wrote:
< She'll be in the forthcoming P. McCreesh recording of the SMP (OVPP-SSAATTBB). >
Any word on when this is being recorded? I had heard it would be sometime this year.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 24, 2002):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Kozena's disc of Händel solo cantatas with Minkowski is also good. It has "Da quel giorno fatale" HWV 99, "O Numi eterni" (the 'Lucrezia' cantata about a rape victim) HWV 145, and "Tra le fiamme" HWV 170. Live recording.

DG Archiv 289 469 065

More details and sound samples are at
http://www.deutschegrammophon.com/catalog/product.htms?SO=1&PRODUCT_NR=4690652

Bill H. wrote (January 24, 2002):
[To William Kasimer] I have an even earlier album, recorded in 1996, in which she sings the motet "In Sole Posuisti" (possibly by Biber). It's with the Czech group Musica Florea, on Studio Matous MK 0031-2 931. Some other good Biber (or attributed) works on this CD, including "Battaglia".

There's also a recent interview with her, in the Guardian:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/story/0,3604,636647,00.html

Joost wrote (January 24, 2002):
[To William Kasimer] Also on Studio Matous: Works from Vejvanovsky with the same performers (MK 0028-2 931), where MK (!) sings in three works (recorded in 1995). There is a fine Schmelzer disc with Musica Florae as well, but MK is not singing on that one.

Even earlier is their disc of Zelenka's beautiful Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis (MK 0017-2231), recorded in 1994, with Magdalena Kozena amongst the singers.

Piotr Jaworski wrote (January 25, 2002):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< Following my "discovery" of Magdalena Kozena's (...) >
One more reason for your new affection ;-)

Do you already know the recent OPUS 111 release Vivaldi's "Juditha Triumphans" with MK as Juditha?

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 25, 2002):
[To Piotr Jaworski] It's on order...

Riccardo Nughes wrote (Jaanuary 25, 2002):
There is also the recent Messiah directed by Minkowski.

William Kasimer wrote (January 25, 2002):
[To Riccardo Nughes] Unfortunately, she sings only one aria ("But who may abide..."). Most of the alto stuff is given to the vastly inferior Brian Asawa, and the good-but-not-Kozena Charlotte Hellenkant (who sings only "He was despised").

Riccardo Nughes wrote (Jaanuary 25, 2002):
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
< She only sings one track on that. It is very misleading advertising, imho. >
I know it, but when you're a fan.....;-)
Is it me or Universal records misleading?

Kirk McElhearn wrote (January 25, 2002):
[To Riccardo Nughes] Well, the entire Messiah project was misleading. It is incomplete, it is not a good recording, and there are soloists listed just for their names who don't do much.

BTW, I do have it - I got a review copy...

 

Kozena - the original

Thomas Radleff wrote (April 28, 2003):
Finally I found the original edition of Kozena´s Bach Arias, a coproduction of Archiv and Concentus Moraviae 1997.
(The design, especially the cover photo is awful, a third class hairspray ad.)

But what a surprise: three more arias which are not included on the DGG release:
Erfüllet, ihr himmlischen göttlichen Flammen BWV 1/3
Unsere Stärke heißt zu schwach BWV 14/2
Wenn kömmt der Tag BWV 70/3.
Total timing 68:18 (DGG: 54:30)

Any idea why DGG dropped these tracks?

Listening to it again, I am enchanted by the band. Let´s pray that Marek Stryncl & his Musica Florea might record the b-minor-Mass very soon...

Kirk McElhearn wrote (April 28, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] Could there be musicians that pose contractual problems?

Any chance of getting MP3s of those three tracks for my collection????

Thomas Radleff wrote (April 28, 2003):
[To Kirk McElhearn] As I am not acquainted with MP3s, I can offer a burned copy by mail - o.k.? Obviously you´re collecting Kozenas - I also found a Czech CD from 1995 with songs by Schumann (Frauenliebe und -leben), Dvorak and Kricka. I guess you kno w the DGG Le Belle Immagini with Mozart, Gluck and Myslivecek arias. Interested?

Santu de Silva wrote (April 28, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] Me, Me! I'm interested! (I would be willing to buy a copy of the original, if you could find one, too ...)

Johan van Veen wrote (April 29, 2003):
Thomas Radleff wrote:
>> Listening to it again, I am enchanted by the band. Let´s pray that Marek Stryncl & his Musica Florea might record the b-minor-Mass very soon...<<
I agree: Musica Florea is a superb ensemble. I have heard them several times on German and Belgian radio in live recordings, and they are always excellent. They also bring little-known repertoire quite often. One of my favourite recordings is one with sacred works by Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer on Supraphon.

Thomas Radleff wrote (April 29, 2003):
Musica Florea

[To Johan van Veen] Johan - thanks for the hint.

So far, I know three recordings from 1996 on Studio Matous, with music by Schmelzer, Biber and Veijvanovsky. Two of them with Kozena´s voice appearing here and there. Excellent, informative booklets. And be aware that their founder and leader, cellist Marek Stryncl, is born 1974!

Joost wrote (April 30, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] Also on Studio Matous is their beautiful Zelenka recording, with the Missa Sanctissimae Trinitatis. Not to be missed for Musica florea fans.

Thomas Radleff wrote (May 1, 2003):
[To Joost] Thank you, joost, - I´m not only a fan of Musica Florea, but also of Zelenka. So I have another reason for a trip to Brno, where I probably can find it.

Joost wrote (May 1, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] You may like to know they have their own website: http://www.impresario.cz/eng/mf/index.html
where their complete discography can be found as well.

Jack Botelho wrote (May 1, 2003):
These threads on Kozena and Musica Florea make for fascinating reading. I hope the BachRecordings group makes a regular habit of discussing topics like this.

Thanks for the info.

Thomas Radleff wrote (May 2, 2003):
[To Joost] Thank, you, joost - good link.

I see they have two Zelenka recordings, and even one with Bach Magnificat and a cantata, but under another director. On almost all of them there´s soprano Anna Hlavenková - who is a miracle!

Here´s a small site about Kozená with her discography: http://www.czechmusic.com/dictionary1/598.html

Z. Biczek wrote (May 3, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] Any idea why DG released any of this terribly immature singing in the first place? It is really interesting that through all those years - now probably 7 or 8 - Kozena's Germa remained as poor as it was on that first CD and I can't simply understand how sb who doesn't understand the language can be praised for her Bach performances. No improvement on the new SMP (BWV 244) with McCreesh either. It is even more surprising to hear that she actually recorded Schumann's sublime "Frauenliebe...." ! Now, that must have been a joke, really! I've heard her sing some German Lieder and it was pathetic. Kozena is probably the first singer who made me realize how easy it is to make a career in classical music today if you are willing to sell yourself a la pop star and if you have a good agent who takes care of your promotion. Nothing else really matters. This is really sad!

Thomas Radleff wrote (Maay 4, 2003):
[To Z. Biczek] I can share two of your arguments:

1. DGG´s large-scale promoting campaign for Magdalena Kozena is obvious.She is not only sold as a singer, but also as a particular model with this speci, natural, somehow "slavian" charme. The new design of her Gluck/Myslivecek/Mozart arias CD shows a rich picture album with bio, concert dates and a lot of stylish photos, all of them shot at famous places in Prague - which is not her home town, but who in the western audiences knows Brno! - that´s why. A star is built. But all of this does not touch the substance of her singing.

2. Sure, her accent is still there. (When she recorded her first disc with Schumann, Dvorak and Kricka Lieder, she has been 22!) The reason why I do not mind about it, is maybe because of quite personal reasons: I still find it quite charming. And beyond, in Vienna´s everyday life, a Bohemian (or, in her case, Moravian) accent is almost familiar.

May I ask which mezzos do you like ? Just curious,

Z. Biczek wrote (May 4, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] ;et me begin with your last question. My favorite current (let's leave the old singers out) mezzos are Bernarda Fink, Sara Mingardo and Anne Sofie von Otter. They couldn't be more different from Kozena. Their style is (and always was - it's not the age that makes them different from her) simple, unaffected and they ALWAYS know what they sing about. They never embark on projects that are beyond their voice or their age and beyond their experience. When I listen to any of those 3 singers, I feel that I am really in a presence of great artists and not artificially made stars. Kozena's voice is lovely but that's all she has (well, the looks ...) There was a moment when I did think that a new star was born - or maybe let's put it the other way: a few years ago I was asking myself why wasn't she better known for her singing was so lovely (her solo contributions in Minkowski's Rameau and Händel). And then it came, her disastrous solo Händel which really proved that she is simply immature and shouldn't be given 60+ minutes to herself (though i found her presence refreshing in those short solos in the above mentioned discs). The Gluck/Mozart/Myslivecek was a harmless release with some lovely singing but still, nothing exceptional and certainly nothing that would prove that 'a star was born'. Her Love Songs CD might have been a success because most people don't understand Czech but I found it impossible to sit through it twice. Her singing is lovely and fresh but again, terribly monotonous. This girl needs more time to develop but she has been already given a lot of time: her Bach disc was recorded at 22 and we are almost 10 years later in her career. Where is the development? 10 years is a very long time for a singer.

When I complain about MK's German it is not about her accent (it would be silly of me to expect every singer to sing like a native speaker) but about the lack of understanding of what she is singing about. She will just sigh or whisper or shout as she wants and that makes people think that she is 'emotionally' engaged (the same is with her Italian and her ENGLISH!) To me it is very important that a singer who sings Bach understands the text - you can't record this repertoire without understanding the language (well, McCreesh just recorded his SMP with singers who prove that they don't understand what the whole thing is about).

I think the moment when I realized that MK is really artificially promoted came when I saw her performance of BWV 199 on DVD. It was simply .... hilarious! I haven't seen a more absurd performance of Bach's music than this one. Kozena is so obsessed with the way she looks that she actually smiles throughout this cantata so often that it makes it sound (and look) like a piece of happy music. She distorts the meaning of the cantata, the meaning of whole words or sentences because she has a better 'idea'. This is what happens to young singers who are prematurely exposed and it is is becoming a norm. Kozena happened to be the first one who was promoted on such a huge scale by a once respectable record company. This trend is damaging to music and - if she is really any good - to Kozena herself (and any other young singer who is being exploited in a similar way).

Well, I probably exahusted you long ago.

Robert Sherman wrote (May 4, 2003):
[To Z. Biczek] I've only heard Kozena on Minkowski's Messiah, in which she strikes me as totally forgettable -- in contrast to Charlotte Hellekant on the same recording, who is stunningly sincere, intense, and original although HIPsters on this list will no doubt object to her vibrato. Agree with zbiczek on von Otter, though; she's the real thing. Disagree on Fink, who strikes me as having a nanny-goat vibrato and as swallowing her consonants.

Z. Biczek wrote (May 4, 2003):
[To Robert Shewrman] Well, the problem of vibrato strikes me as an artificial one. To me bleached, vibrato-free voices are simply tiring and devoid of expression. I know that many of those who are generally fans of Kozena object to her vibrato and it really amuses me because her voice wouldn't be really the same without the 'vibrato'. For those who can't listen to voices with vibrato there is only one choice: boy sopranos but they don't come in super-model packages. Kozena on Minkowski's Messiah is certainly forgettable(in my opinion the whole recording should be deleted as a terrible mistake), as she is in most of her solo releases. When I mentioned Kozena's solos in Minkowski's Händel I meant a recording of Dixit Dominus and a few other early religious works. Kozena's singing in "Messiah" in English is a perfect illustration of all the problems I mentioned before: she exaggerates the text, emphasizes wrong
words, abuses sighs and whispers.

You say that Hellekant is 'stunningly sincere" - that's exactly what Kozena lacks: sincerity. In everything she sings there is always a hint of trying much too hard to be 'original' and 'emotional'.

As to Fink's 'nanny-goat vibrato', well, it's probably a question of personal taste. I think she is one of the truly greatest singers of today, totally sincere and devoted to music she performs. This is a rare quality because nowadays most singers are devoted to making careers.

When i was answering Thomas's question, i knew I was forgetting sth obvious. I didn't include Bartoli among my favorite mezzos and i am doing it now only because the question was about favorite mezzos in general, not only Bach singers. I know that Bartoli doesn't belong here because she doesn't sing Bach and i don't want to start a Bartoli discussion, it is simply my answer to Thomas's question.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (May 4, 2003):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< Disagree on Fink, who strikes me as having a nanny-goat vibrato and as swallowing her consonants. >
Yes, I can't remember exactly which recording it was with Fink recently – it was on Arcana, some Italian cantatas? - but it was a disgrace that it had even been recorded. Her vibrato is so intrusive that I had great difficulty sitting through the entire disc.

Johan van Veen wrote (May 5, 2003):
[To Kirk McElhearn] That was a CD with cantatas by Francesco Conti (Arcana A 309).

Kirk McElhearn wrote (May 5, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] Exactly. A horrendous disc. Very disappointing, in spite of the excellent playing by the instrumentalists.

 

Marek Štryncl: Short Biography | Musica Florea | Bach Arias – by Štryncl & Musica Florea with Magdalena Kožená

Magdalena Kožená: Short Biography | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Bach Arias – by Štryncl & Musica Florea with Magdalena Kožená | Bachiana Volume 3 - Lamento - by Magdalena Kožená w/ Musica Antiqua Köln & Reinhard Goebel

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Last update: ýAugust 8, 2006 ý23:11:19