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Arts preview: Magdalena Kožená and Private Musicke ready to baroque

Sam Olluver


Hong Kong Cultural Centre


It's not often that classical singers with pedigrees as colourful or varied as the Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená breeze into town.

The recipient of many awards for her recordings, the 2004 Gramophone artist of the year will perform a recital of early baroque music with the period instrument group, Private Musicke, on November 10.

The fact that she is as critically acclaimed for her recital performances as for her appearances in concert and on the opera stage is testament to her rare versatility.

For Kožená, the former Czechoslovakia's 1989 velvet revolution came at exactly the right moment. She was 16. It brought about a peaceful end to communist rule in the country and opened up the borders for her talent to bloom and achieve international recognition. Deutsche Grammophon signed her to an exclusive recording contract when she was just 26.

Fourteen years on, she has recorded 35 discs on the label, performing music from a daunting range of periods and composers including Handel, Mahler, J.S. Bach and Shostakovich.

Nestled among them is a disc of Mozart arias, released in 2006, in which Kožená is accompanied by Simon Rattle, the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. They were married two years later.

Her upcoming programme at the Cultural Centre features early Italian baroque songs by a generous selection of composers who were active in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Kožená will be accompanied by Private Musicke, a period instrument group founded in 1998 and directed by Pierre Pitzl. It's a versatile ensemble comprising bowed and plucked string instruments; Pitzl himself will play the guitar and viola da gamba.

Using instruments capable of drawing on a multitude of shades in colour, the group tailors individual sound worlds for the repertoire of different recital programmes.

Each performance showcases both the technical and improvisatory skills of the performers, reproducing the authentic timbres of the early baroque period on less familiar instruments, such as the colascione, theorbo and lira da gamba.


Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall, 10 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, November 10, 8pm, HK$150- HK$480 Urbtix. Inquiries: 2268 7321