Composers: Brahms, Dvořák, Chausson, Stravinsky, Ravel
Performers:Magdalena Kožená ms, Simon Rattle p
Catalogue Number: Pentatone PTC5186671
If you’ve ever fantasised about being invited round to mezzo Magdalena Kožená and Simon Rattle’s place for dinner, before listening in as husband and wife make some spontaneous chamber music together afterwards, then this is the disc for you.
We open in full spate with the unabashed sensuality of Chausson’s Chanson perpétuelle, which transfigures Charles Cros’s rather kitsch verses into something closer to Pre-Raphaelite beauty, but soon things are tempered by Stravinsky’s lean, astringent Shakespeare settings and the playful roughness of Janáček’s Nursery Rhymes with Andrew Marriner’s clarinet at the fore – everyone joining in with the call-and-response closing of deˇlám, deˇlám kázání. Strauss’s Morgen makes a lovely musical farewell.
This recording marks Rattle’s recording debut as a pianist, and to say that he disappears into the texture of this talented group of soloists is to pay him the highest compliment – his accompaniments reliably self-effacing and thoughtful. Kožená isn’t everyone’s mezzo of choice, but this is a program that suits her well, celebrating her expressive handling of text (particularly in French and Czech) and her light, chameleon voice. If there are times when a little more weight and bloom and depth are missing, then they are mostly compensated for by her willingness to find the drama in these works, taking us from eavesdropping salon intimacy to near-operatic scope.