In his debut collaboration with the Czech Philharmonic, Sir Simon Rattle, one of the most respected conductors in the world, will perform pieces of Antonín Dvořák and Gustav Mahler. Magdalena Kožená and Simon O'Neill will be performing vocal parts in Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde.
The Golden Spinning Wheel, symphonic poem, Op. 109
Das Lied von der Erde
Magdalena Kožená was born in the Czech city of Brno and studied voice and piano at the Brno Conservatory and later with Eva Bláhová at Bratislava’s Academy of Performing Arts. She has been awarded several major prizes both in the Czech Republic and internationally, culminating in the Sixth International Mozart Competition in Salzburg in 1995.
She was named “Artist of the Year” by Gramophone in 2004 and has won numerous other awards since, including the Echo Award, Record Academy Prize, Tokyo, and Diapason d’or. Most recent releases for Deutsche Gramophon have included Prayer for voice and organ with Christian Schmidt (2014) and Love and longing with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle (2012).
Kožená has worked with many of the world’s leading conductors, Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, Gustavo Dudamel, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Mariss Jansons, James Levine, Charles Mackerras and Sir Roger Norrington. Her list of distinguished recital partners includes the pianists Daniel Barenboim, Yefim Bronfman, Malcolm Martineau, András Schiff and Mitsuko Uchida. Kožená’s understanding of historical performance practices have been cultivated in collaboration with outstanding period-instrument ensembles, including the English Baroque Soloists, the Gabrieli Consort and Players, Il Giardino Armonico, Les Musiciens du Louvre, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Venice Baroque Orchestra and Le Concert d’Astrée.
She is also in demand as soloist with the Berlin, Vienna and Czech Philharmonics and the Cleveland, Philadelphia and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestras. At the start of the 2015/16 season she joins the Vienna Philharmonic on tour performing Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius with performances at the Lucerne Festival, Birmingham Symphony Hall and BBC Proms.
Kožená first performed at the Salzburg Festival in 2002 as Zerlina in Don Giovanni and returned in 2013 as Idamante, a role she has also sung for the Glyndebourne Festival and in Berlin and Lucerne. Kožená made her first appearance at New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 2003 as Cherubino in Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro and has since been a regular guest. She sang Zerlina for the company’s tour to Japan in 2006 and returned to New York to take the title-role in Jonathan Miller’s production of Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande in 2010/11. Her opera credits also include Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola (Royal Opera House, 2007), Oktavian in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier (Berlin Staatsoper, 2009 and Baden Baden Easter Festival, 2015), Lazuli in Chabrier’s L’étoile (Berlin Staatsoper, 2010), the title-role in Bizet’s Carmen (Salzburg Easter and Summer Festivals, 2012) and in Charpentier’s Médée (Basel Opera 2015).
Kožená was appointed a Chevalier de lʼOrdre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government in 2003 for her services to French music.
Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth)by Gustav Mahler is based on ancient Chinese poems rendered into German by Hans Bethge as The Chinese Flute and is considered by many people the peak of Mahler’s oeuvre. It was to be Mahler’s ninth symphony, but according to Alma Mahler (whose statements, however, are often unreliable) he was aware of the “curse of the Ninth” since Beethoven, Bruckner and Dvořák did not complete more than nine symphonies.
Mahler tried to go around the fate: he entitled his only vocal symphony Das Lied von der Erde and did not give it a serial number. He finished the composition in summer of 1908 and made small alterations in September the following year while staying with his friends, the Redlich family in Hodonín.
Mahler selected the poems so as to cover the landmarks of a human life from exuberant youth to death, running in parallel with the cycle of nature. The last movement represents reconciliation in bidding farewell to life; the word “endless” repeated six times until the music fades into silence is one of the most impressive conclusions in symphonic music and an expression of a belief about continuance in infinity.
The composition has become his artistic testament, although he did compose his Ninth Symphony and even started the Tenth, which has remained a fragment. However, Mahler never heard Das Lied von der Erde – the composition was premiered a year after Mahler’s death on 20 November 1911 by Bruno Walter in Munich; soloists were tenor William Miller and American alto Mrs. Charles Cahier (her own name was Sarah Jane Walker), who opened a two-day celebration in honor of the composer by a solo recital of Mahler songs on the same day.
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