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Recordings

Lamento
22 Nov 2005

Lamento — Arias, Cantatas and Scenes by the Bach Family

Dorothea Schroder, as translated by Stewart Spencer, begins her booklet essay for Magdalena Kozena’s recent CD by quoting a review of an earlier disc of the mezzo: “…Kozena is simply marvelous.” Brazen record company self-promotion?

Lamento — Arias, Cantatas and Scenes by the Bach Family

Magdalena Kožená, Musica Antiqua Köln, Reinhard Goebel

Archive 474 194-2 [CD]

 

No, for the accolade rings true, not least because of the similarity of repertoire; the first disc was devoted entirely to music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and the latest, Lamento, features his work as well as that of some of his sons and a cantata by one Francesco Bartelemo Conti. And the singing from the soloist rivals the beauty on display on the disc’s cover.

All but the most baroque-allergic should find Lamento a marvelous listen. Although the title may suggest a morose tone, the laments here express themselves as pained but beautiful cries of the heart: “my beloved makes me happy to die,” Kozena sings in the Conti cantata. The beloved is Jesus, of course, but the last two pieces on the disc, Selma by CPE Bach and Die Amerikanerin (yes, The American Woman) venture into more familiar romantic territory. The latter selection, composed by Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, promises a more intriguing text than it delivers; the music’s appeal more than compensates.

The pieces have also been selected with an ear for musical variety, and Goebel and his excellent musicians illuminate colors and textures with great skill. But this is a Magdalena Kozena disc. Only Goebel and three others of his musicians earn the right to join Kozena in one of the booklet’s numerous photographs.

Kozena’s impeccable taste and attractive tone by themselves make her a special singer, but she also has a subtle dramatic sense that pulls one into the texts without reaching for effects. The recordings fairly capture the size of her voice; a Kozena Amneris remains a distinctly unlikely occurrence. At times she almost blends into the musical fabric too well, and a sharper profile could be to her advantage. That aside, singing of this caliber more than justifies the glamour shots of the CD package.

In a better musical world, a CD such as Lamento would be sampled regularly on our classical radio stations, and Kozena would have a hit record on her hands. That seems unlikely in the current depressed classical recording industry, but for those who add the disc to their collection, much pleasure is in store.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

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