Kateřina Kněžíková’s debut Supraphon album contains engrossing songs by Bohuslav Martinů, Henri Duparc, Maurice Ravel and Karol Szymanowski, which the Czech soprano recorded with the Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava, conducted by Robert Jindra. Duparc’s songs, one of which, depicting Phidylé, a simple and pious country girl, has given the recording its title, may come as a revelation to many a listener. All the music featured on the album reflects an affinity with Nature and foregrounds intuition.
The content of your new album, titled Phidylé, is really intriguing. I think that some of the pieces will be a great surprise for the listeners. Why did you choose this repertoire in particular?
I don’t like copying something that has been recorded numerous times. But an even more important role in the decision-making was my strong penchant for songs. When I was afforded the opportunity to make an album of my own, the question was what precisely I should use to present myself. How I wished to be perceived by music lovers. When I realised that my album should feature opera arias, the comparison would be highly uncompromising.
As I have said previously, songs are my true love. And I don’t think they have been given sufficient scope in our country. I would like that to change. I believe that I have something to say with regard to this repertoire, as I feel at home with it.
The album contains songs with orchestra accompaniment. Is it in line with your initial intention?
Yes, some of the songs were originally scored for voice and orchestra. Working with an orchestra was natural for me. The springboard was Bohuslav Martinů’s Magic Nights. I have always wanted to record this song cycle, all the more so given that no Czech soprano has done so. The rest of the repertoire was selected relatively quickly and easily. The conductor Robert Jindra and I discovered the Henri Duparc songs together.
The difference between piano and orchestra accompaniment is really interesting. I myself find observing it fascinating. In the future I may even make an album consisting of songs with piano and orchestra accompaniment.
How important do you deem the lyrics of the songs you perform?
For me, it’s the alpha and omega. I focus on the text even before opening the music score. It always takes me a very long time, it’s like reading poems. The lyrics of all the songs featured on my new album are beautiful.
How do you perceive the recording process? What does the time spent in the studio mean to you?
I think making an album is an immense challenge. Everything, even the tiniest detail, is recorded. When singing at a concert, you don’t stop and ruminate over a nuance, you simply go on. Yet as regards recording, you must pay rigorous attention to each and every detail. You never know what will happen, which moment will be used. I really enjoy recording, yet you’ve got to be in tiptop shape.
On the album, you are accompanied by the Janáček Philharmonic Ostrava, which is based in the region where you were born and grew up. What was working with the orchestra like?
The Janáček Philharmonic is one of my favourite orchestras. I like all its members very much. I feel at home in Ostrava, it was a great joy to be with my family, we had a wonderful, exciting time together.
You have worked with the conductor Robert Jindra for many years. Could you describe your collaboration on this project?
Robert Jindra is not just a colleague of mine, we are friends too. So it was quite logical to turn to him. Robert was happy that I had opted for songs, and he immediately accepted my offer. What’s more, he afforded me the opportunity to learn new pieces. I am very grateful for his support and collaboration. He is an extremely empathetic conductor, reliable and providing great help to singers.
Can we look forward to hearing the songs featured on your new album at concerts?
Yes, definitely. The bulk of them have been included in the programme of a concert scheduled to take place on 26 June 2021 within the Leoš Janáček International Music Festival in Hukvaldy. Other concerts have been planned, yet their dates and venues are yet to be agreed.
Have you given thought to your next musical project, another album?
You probably won’t be surprised to hear I intend to record another album made up of songs. I would like to focus on Bohuslav Martinů and Gustav Mahler vocal pieces. And I would also like to record some Spanish music, as well as Richard Strauss’s songs.