A diverse and thoughtful program by mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena and pianist Malcom Martineau opened the Union College Concert Series' 45th season on Sunday afternoon. Known primarily for presenting string quartets and pianists, the series has a new concentration on singers, with a vocal recitals accounting for a quarter of the 16 concerts that run through late April.
Kozena showed a secure technique and substantial lyric tone in her opening selections by Dvorak. Apart from her natural ability to fill the room with sound, she also alighted easily from chest to head voice.
Eight songs from Hugo Wolf's Morike Lieder came next. Wolf went further than did Dvorak in giving some musical embodiment to the poetry at hand. There was a tolling clock in "Elfenlied" and a jaunty humor in "Abschied." But these and other more subtle characteristics only highlighted that Kozena sings beautifully but not with a particularly broad interpretive range.
After intermission came Richard Strauss' "Three Songs for Ophelia," which were more like miniatures than full-on mad scenes. Faure's Opus 23 that followed had a welcome legato and longer sense of line.
© Joseph Dalton