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Whispering Leaves

Ksenia Kouzmenko, Lucie Štĕpánová

Leos Janacek, Josef Páleníček, Bohuslav Martinu


Year of release: 2018

Fairy Tale 12:51
1. Con moto Leos Janacek 05:12
2. Con moto Leos Janacek 04:43
3. Allegro Leos Janacek 02:55
Chorale Variations on the Theme “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded 18:11
4. Theme Josef Páleníček 01:22
5. Var1. Comodo Josef Páleníček 00:56
6. Var2. Animato Josef Páleníček 00:46
7. Var3. Vivace Josef Páleníček 01:04
8. Var4. Comodo Josef Páleníček 01:17
9. Var5. Adagio Josef Páleníček 03:49
10. Var6. Andante grazioso Impetuoso Josef Páleníček 01:48
11. Var7. Allegro assai Josef Páleníček 00:53
12. Var8. Cadenza ad libitum Josef Páleníček 02:37
13. Var9. Finale. Allegro. Grave Josef Páleníček 03:35
Sonate no.2 for cello and piano 23:36
14. Allegro Bohuslav Martinu 08:51
15. Largo Bohuslav Martinu 08:49
16. Allegro comodo Bohuslav Martinu 05:55
17. A Blown-Away Leaf from the piano cycle “On an Overgrown Path” Leos Janacek 03:33

About this album

Whispering Leaves

While I was sitting on the maestro’s lap we shared our soup from the same bowl.
A er that I took him to my room and showed o my entire wardrobe. Finally we
wound up singing and playing at the piano all evening. Completely enchanted I
decided that the piano would be the instrument which was going to make me happy
-not the violin that I had just started playing, following my father’s path. And that
was the case in the following six years until I had to admit that apparently I lacked
the necessary perseverance to become a really good pianist. When I was eleven – my
family had just moved to Prague – I reconsidered for the third time and this decision should nally be the lucky one: I started playing the cello, taking lessons from
Maestro Páleníček ́s youngest son, Jan Páleníček.

Two years later I accompanied my mother to a rehearsal at Maestro Páleníček ́s home
where they practiced for a concert, he playing the piano and my mother singing.
A er they nished rehearsing he looked at me and said with a smile in his eyes:
“I heard you are now playing the cello. I have composed numerous pieces for that
beautiful instrument. Maybe one day you will be playing my music. But until then
you will have to practice a lot.”

Twenty-four years later, in 2006, Ksenia and I were brought together as duo partners
by Miklos Schwalb of Schwalbconcertmanagement. We quickly realized how well we
matched both personally and musically. Our repertoire soon covered the whole of the Classical and Romantic periods. Apart from that we decided to put our main
focus on the music of my home country, Moravia. It has been ten years since we
played our rst concert in the Kleine Zaal of the Concertgebouw Amsterdam with
works by Janáček and Martinů. Many performances in the Netherlands followed in
the next few years and nally our dream to make a CD together was born. e main
idea was to record pieces that are not so well known, yet worth introducing to the
public. Nowadays where CDs are released all of the time we wanted to create a
special and very personal recording. I began searching my archive and in the midst
of a multitude of wonderful music the score of Josef Páleníček’s Chorale Variations
fell into my hands and the CD’s heart began to beat.

The last recorded piece is a movement of Janáček’s piano cycle On an Overgrown
Path. e title “A Blown-Away Leaf” gave us the inspiration for our CD ́s name.
Quite o en I have felt like a leaf, blown away from my home country by the wind.
While playing this music I feel carried back to my origins.

Lucie Štĕpánová 

Download booklet



Crescendo, May 2018

La violoncelliste tchèque Lucie Stepanova et la pianiste biélorusse Ksenia Kouzmenko s’attaquent à ce répertoire exigeant avec des interprétations qui laissent transparaitre toute l’originalité de chacun de ces compositeurs...The Czech cellist Lucie Stepanova and the Belarusian pianist Ksenia Kouzmenko tackle this demanding repertoire with interpretations that reveal the originality of each of these composers

Music Frames (Mar. 2018)

Finally, A Blown-Away Leaf (by Janáçek) is the inspiration for the title Whispering Leaves, an album on which the great musicians Ksenia Kouzmenko and Lucie Štĕpánová show the beauty of unknown Moravian pieces. Absolutely great record!


Geradezu märchenhaft klingt auch das Zusammenspiel der beiden Instrumentalistinnen. Zwar auf äußere Anregung hin zusammengebracht, haben sie schnell ihre menschlichen und künstlerischen Gemeinsamkeiten erkannt und können diese nunmehr zugunsten der Musik einsetzten..Lucie Stepanova and Ksenia Kouzmenko form a sensitively operating duo with fine artistic capabilities.

Luister, mei 2018 (May. 2018)

Jacanceks A Blown-Away Leaf is misschien wel mooier dan het origineel voor piano. Stepanova en Kouzmenko vullen elkaar liefdevol aan. Ik kijk alvast reikhalzend naar de volgende cd uit.

De Volkskrant, aug. 2018

Stepánová en Kouzmenko vinden een mooie balans tussen passie en ingetogenheid. Ze omringen de compositie van Pálenícek met werken van zijn landgenoten Janácek en Martinu. Zo ontstaat een fraaie indruk van het brede palet aan muzikale stijlen dat in het Tsjechië van de eerste helft van de vorige eeuw is ontstaan.

Opus Klassiek (Feb. 2018)

Wat bij dit spel het eerst opvalt is de grote betovering die ervan afstraalt. Sterker nog, ik geloof niet dat deze muziek idiomatischer zou kunnen klinken. Alsof vier meesterhanden zich erover hebben ontfermd. Het is ook de lyrische diepte die het duo voortdurend weet te bereiken, zoals in het Largo uit Martinu's sonate. Je zou bijna vergeten dat dit bovenal een uitermate virtuoos programma is dat de hoogste technische eisen stelt. De vele horden worden echter niet alleen met het grootste gemak genomen, maar ook de gepassioneerde en energieke toets is van een zeldzame indringendheid en schoonheid. Er is geen twijfel mogelijk: hier wordt op het hoogst denkbare niveau gemusiceerd.

Musicweb International

There’s some good programming here. Martinů’s Second Quartet was composed in 1941, the year before pianist and composer Josef Páleníček wrote his Chorale Variations on the theme ‘O Sacred Head, Now Wounded’. And Pohádka introduces Janáček whose A Blown-Away Leaf, from On an Overgrown Path, is heard in the arrangement by the great cellist Miloš Sádlo...A well-recorded and annotated programme that offers interesting links and cross-currents.

Gramophone, Aug.2018

This is a beautifully constructed and rather beautifully played recital of Czech music for cello and piano. At its heart is a real discovery, Josef Páleníček’s Chorale Variations on the Theme ‘O Sacred Head, Now Wounded’ (1942)...The appropriation of the Lutheran chorale acts as a metaphor in reverse for Czechoslovakia’s occupation by the Nazis, the composition occasioned by the Gestapo’s arrest of a local benefactor. Politics aside, it is a masterly work and Lucie Štěpánová and Ksenia Kouzmenko play it in masterly fashion.

Stretto febr 2018 (Feb. 2018)

De cd “Whispering Leaves” werd opgenomen o.l.v. technicus Tom Peeters in de protestantse Westvestkerk in Schiedam, bekend om zijn uitstekende akoestiek. Een sublieme cd door twee topmusici. Warm aanbevolen.

ElegantClassics, Sept.2018 (Sep. 2018)

Both the recording engineer and musicians have managed to find a balance that leaves the listener's ear fully concentrated, resulting in undisturbed listening...The selection of the repertoire is a successful choice, Janacek and Martinů go nicely together, whilst Páleníček gives the disc a completely original accent. Lucie Štěpánová (cello) is colorfully and expressively nicely differentiated. She shines and flashes, but also has a kind of nervous rush which makes her exciting as well. Ksenia Kouzmenko, a brilliant interpreter, is a pianist who is not a mere addition, but on the contrary an individuality that delivers the necessary energy and sound quality to music. We are listening to a recording that goes to the highest levels!


Technical Specifications

Digital To Analog ConverterdCS 954
Mastering EquimentPyramix, Merging Technologies
Mastering EngineerTom Peeters
CablesAcoustic Revive
Mixing ConsoleRens Heijnis
MicrophonesB&K 4003, modified by Rens Heijnis
Recording FormatDSD64
Analog To Digital ConverterGrimm Audio
Recording Datejuli 2017
Recording LocationWestvest90, Schiedam, The Netherlands
Recording EngineerTom Peeters
ProductionTom Peeters