Traditional: Kebych bola jahodú. EBEN: Lute Songs. RÖSLER: An die Entfernte. NOVÁK: Fairytale of the Heart. MARTINÚ: Songs on Two Pages. JANÁCEK: Moravian Folk Poetry in Songs (excerpts). DVORÁK: Gypsy Melodies/Moravian Duets (excerpts). SCHYULHOFF: Folksongs and dances from the Tesinsko Region.
Magdalena Kozená, mezzo-soporano; Dorothea Röschmann, soprano (Moravian Duets); Malcolm Martineau, piano; Michael Freimuth, guitar
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DG 00289 477 6665 (F) TT: 70:04

CHOPIN: There where she loves, Op. 74 No. 2. The ring, Op. 74 No. 14. The warrior, Op. 74 No. 10. Lithuanian song, Op. 74 No. 16. Handsome lad, Op. 74 No.8. RACHMANINOFF: Christ is Risen, Op. 26 No. 2. How fleeting is love's delight, Op. 14 No. 2. She is as beautiful as noon, Op. 14, No. 9. TCHAIKOVSKY: Was I not a little blade of grass, Op. 47 No. 4. No, only one who knows longing, Op. 6 No. 6. Zemfira's song. SZYMANOWSKI: Masques, Op. 34 (piano). MUSSORGSKY: Songs and Dances of Death. RACHMANINOFF: All things pass away, Op. 26 No. 15.
Ewa Podles, contralto; Garrick Ohlsson, piano

FRITZ WUNDERLICH - Songs & Melodies - The Earliest Recordings
PROFIL PHG08078 TT: 58:4

BORIS CHRISTOFF - Russian Folk Songs and Sacred Music. Works of Serov, Strokine, Tchesnokov, Gretchaninov, traditional songs, and Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death
PREISER 89713 TT:78:55

RUDOLF BOCKELMANN - Excerpts from live recording of Wagner's Die Meistersinger September 5, 1938, with Tiana Lemnitz (Eva); Ruth Berglund (Magdalena); Eyvind Laholm (Stolzing); Josef von Manowarda (Pogner); Vienna State Opera Chorus; Vienna Philharmonic Orch/Wilhelm Furtwängler, cond.Wagner: Die Frist est um from Die fliegende Höllander (Orch/Wilhelm Scbhüchter).
PREISER 89716 TT: 73:23

Mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena, who already has to her credit many superb recordings (mostly baroque music), now has this second disk devoted primarily to Czech music, and it is a winner in every way. Born in Brno, she is totally at home in Czech music. Recorded in Munich studios in March 2007, this CD, called Songs My Mother Taught Me, covers a wide range of repertory. The group of 7 miniature songs by Martinu based on Moravian folk poetry alone justifies owning this fine recording.

Equally impressive is the recital by Polish contralto Ewa Podles recorded in concert January 23, 2008 in Wigmore Hall and released by that label. Podles and Garrick Ohlsson have been touring with this program for some time. The powerful Podles voice is a force of nature particularly valuable in dramatic contralto operatic roles (as La Cieca, she steals the show from soprano Deborah Voight in the DVD of La Gioconda (REVIEW). Podles seems a bit ill at ease in more intimate music heard in this recital. In the major work, Songs and Dances of Death, she produces some rather awesome sounds, as does Boris Christoff in the reissue mentioned below. Ohlsson is the perfect accompanist, although it does seem strange that for his only solo work we hear Szymanowski's Masques, which seems a bit out of place on the program, however well played.

Profil's Fritz Wunderlich CD is self-recommending. It offers his "earliest recordings" made from 1953 to 1956, mostly German light songs although lieder of Schumann, Beethoven and Brahms are also included. Wunderlich's artistry and perfect vocalism are ever apparent. No texts or program notes, but this budget-priced disk is essential for admirers of this remarkable tenor who died all too young.

Preiser's CD devoted to bass Boris Christoff (1914-1993) offers repertory long associated with him. This remarkable singer didn't study singing seriously until he was 28, but advanced quickly singing his first Boris at La Scala in 1949 and sang the role in leading opera houses of the world (except for the Met), recording it twice, in in 1952 with Issay Dobrowen conducting and in 1962 with André Cluytens on the podium. In both recordings he sings the three principal bass roles—Boris, Varlaam, and Pimen, which can work on recordings. Both recordings are essential for lovers of Mussorgsky's masterpiece, the second having the advantage of superb stereo sound. In 1949 Christoff recorded Songs and Dances of Death with pianist Gerald Moore, and this is available on Pearl's reissue of the 1952 Boris. His second recording was made in France with Georges Tzipine conducting, and this is heard on Preiser's new disk. It also is included in EMI Classics' set of Mussorgsky song cycles (REVIEW). Most of this CD is devoted to a group of Russian folk music and sacred songs recorded in 1956 with the Feodor Potojinski Russian Choir. No texts, but CD notes point out how demanding—and difficult—Christoff was. In 1950, he refused a Met invitation to sing in Faust because the director (Peter Brooks) wanted him to wear street clothes. In 1955 in Rome during a performance of Medea Christoff refused to let Maria Callas take a solo bow, blocking her way—they never sang together again, needless to say. He also had a problem with Franco Corelli in Rome where in a performance of the fight scene between Philip and Carlo in Don Carlo, Corelli was entirely too realistic.

Rudolf Bockelmann (1892-1958) was the major Wagnerian baritone of his time, and already is represented on Preiser by a number of commercial recordings made 1928-1938. Now we have the opportunity to hear him in one of his most famous roles—Hans Sachs—in a gala performance of Die Meistersinger on the occasion of the Nuremberg Rally September 5, 1938 with Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting the Vienna State Opera Chorus and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Others in the cast, only briefly heard, are Tiana Lemnitz (Eva), Ruth Berglund (Magdalena), Eyvind Lahohn (Stolzing), Eugen Fuchs (Beckmesser), and Josef von Manowarda (Pogner). This performance was broadcast but not officially recorded. These parts of the performance are from the private collection of Hermann May, and most fade in and out. Audio quality is quite poor, and we can assume Prieiser did what could be done to provide the best possible sound. This is an important recorded document in spite of limited sonics. Bockelmann's 1947 commercial recording of "Die Frist ist um" from The Flying Dutchman also is included, along with a brief (2:23) commentary by the baritone.

R.E.B. (June 2009)