Date: November 10, 2013
Location: Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Hong Kong.
Magdalena Kožená’s recital last night at the Cultural Centre was essentially a concert version of her hit album, Lettere Amorose, a collection of Italian love songs from the 17th century. These songs came from a time when classical music was the pop music of its day, where the songs were performed and hummed at street corners and at dinner tables. In collaboration with Private Musicke, Kožená found an ensemble of musicians immensely and precisely skilled at reproducing the kind of plucked and percussive sounds found at those street corners and dinner tables in 17th century Italy. The ensemble consisted of Pierre Pitzl and Hugh James Sandilands on the guitar, Jesús Fernández Baena on the teorba, Daniel Pilz on the colascione, Richard Lee Myron on violone/bass, Francisco José Montero Martinez on the lirone, and Marc Clos on percussion. Some of Clos’ percussive instruments looked like they were borrowed from the modern LP set than authentically periodic. But the sound that Clos was able to produce from his instruments blended quite well with the other strings, gave just enough percussive zest, but never drew attention to itself. Clos had prized ears and visual vigilance for maintaining dynamic balance and rhythmic integrity of the ensemble. Pitzl made some extremely convoluted playing on the fingerboard look devilishly easy, and his fluidic, no non-sense mannerism was quite centrally effective in bringing about the ensemble’s late Renaissance sensibilities. Kožená’s voice, marked with minimal vibrato and very little mannerism, effervesced with a refreshing air of ethereal beauty. Kožená did not possess the largest or plumpest of voices, but what she produced carried poetic quality: in the last line in Cruda Amarilli, “I’mi morrò tacendo / in silence I shall die”, Kožená elicited hapless desperation by cringing and slightly lightening her timbre. As she sang about love in the line “da temprar de l’amato mio bene e de l’arso mio cor l’occulto foco / to soothe the hidden fire of my beloved and my scorched heart” and she closed her eyes and lightly cupped her breasts, some audience members, sensing the grief, were heard gasping in sorrow. Kožená’s Hong Kong debut was not sold out, but based on the rabid reception at the end, it would be safe to predict that the audience in Hong Kong would not have to wait as long for her return as they did for her debut.