This week's Classical releases

Anne Sofie Von Otter | Folk Songs (Deutsche Grammophon); MAGDALENA KOZENA | Bach Arias (Deutsche Grammophon Archiv)
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The Independent Culture

Anne Sofie Von Otter | Folk Songs (Deutsche Grammophon) Despite the title, there's no hand-over-the-ear gurning from von Otter; her already cultivated sound has broadened with maturity. Most folk songs in this whirlwind tour of France, Hungary, Britain and Scandinavia have been acculturised by art song composers. Certainly, Dvorak's Ziguenermelodien ("Gypsy Songs") are more salon than caravan, with layers of velvety swagger from von Otter's flirtatious tones and Bengt Frosberg's strutting piano accompaniment. The Britten and Larsson songs are deliciously intimate, but the greatest treats are Grainger's "Sprig of Thyme" and "Died for Love", both tender as lullabies.

Anne Sofie Von Otter | Folk Songs (Deutsche Grammophon) Despite the title, there's no hand-over-the-ear gurning from von Otter; her already cultivated sound has broadened with maturity. Most folk songs in this whirlwind tour of France, Hungary, Britain and Scandinavia have been acculturised by art song composers. Certainly, Dvorak's Ziguenermelodien ("Gypsy Songs") are more salon than caravan, with layers of velvety swagger from von Otter's flirtatious tones and Bengt Frosberg's strutting piano accompaniment. The Britten and Larsson songs are deliciously intimate, but the greatest treats are Grainger's "Sprig of Thyme" and "Died for Love", both tender as lullabies.

MAGDALENA KOZENA | Bach Arias (Deutsche Grammophon Archiv) Czech mezzo Kozená has one of the most purely lovely voices I've heard in a long while; fresh, unaffected and rich. Her coloratura is clean, her legato smooth as glass. She's also slim and pretty with Timotei Girl hair - so she should go far. The two highlights on this debut disc are rarely sung by the same voice - "Erbarme dich" from the St Matthew Passion (for mezzo) and "Zerfliesse, mein Herze" (for soprano) from the St John - and both are beautifully executed. Sopranos will be breathing a sigh of relief while Kozená continues to style herself a mezzo, but on the strength of this disc I doubt she'll stay at that end of the stave for long.

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