Festival Music

Magdalena Kozena

Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

Keith Bruce

five stars

ARNOLD Schoenberg wrote his Brettl-Lieder songs at the very start of the last century, but they were quickly lost and unpublished for 70 years. However nearly 50 more years have elapsed since then and yet these wonderful works – light years from the popular conception of the music of the composer – remain largely unsung. They would sit happily in the "cabaret" strand of some of this year's EIF programme, and were delivered in precisely that style by mezzo Magdalena Kozena, with even a touch of Dietrich in the closer, Aria from "The Mirror of Arcady", setting Schikaneder.

Kozena sang seven of them, and the risque Hugo Salus-setting The Contented Suitor and Hochstetter's Warning (to young ladies in the pursuit of a mate) were particular highlights, probably because she excels at a story-telling lyric. Her mature voice is a rich and powerful instrument and this was an opera star's song recital, brimful of tales, with Encounter and Forsaken Servant Girl telling choices in her selection from Hugo Wolf's Morike Songbook. Opening with Dvorak's "You fervent songs, sing out", and also finding space for the three Ophelia songs of Richard Strauss and a short trio in French by Gabriel Faure, it was a beautifully structured and paced programme.

It seems we are seeing less of Edinburgh's accompanist-of-choice Malcolm Martineau than in previous Queen's Hall series – he appears again with baritone Florian Boesch next Thursday – but he remains as expressive and sensitive a partner of singers as ever. Neither the Wolf sequence not the Schoenberg songs would have been the same without him, with much of the musical wit in the performance emanating from his fingers.