The Times, February 21 2013
Geoff Brown
Jonas Kaufmann: Wagner *****
Visit New York at the moment and you’ll find the wonder tenor Jonas Kaufmann on stage, eloquently manoeuvring through a post-apocalyptic wasteland in the Met’s new production of Wagner’sParsifal. (The production is broadcast live in cinemas on March 2). Now comes this marvellous Wagner CD. True, the disc’s extracts bypass Parsifal completely, but we still receive clear demonstration of the dramatic power, sensitivity and colour range that make this German star the most expressive heroic tenor working the territory today.

The CD’s digital information even encodes Kaufmann’s vigorous stage presence. Doesn’t your breath momentarily stop on those ringing, long, aching notes when Siegmund calls out his father’s name, Wälse, in the sword monologue from Die Walküre? Singing the same passage in his own new Wagner recital for Sony Classical, Klaus Florian Vogt, a more daintily lyrical tenor, sounds as trim as unbuttered toast. But Kaufmann is always in 3-D, as is the lusciously lovely orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, conducted by Donald Runnicles, another master in the field. A tip of the hat, as well, to the recording acoustics: well-balanced, clear, alive. The intelligently chosen items include several Kaufmann has yet to sing live, hinting at possible glories to come.

From Tannhäuser (the Paris version) we get the hero’s Rome narration, its emotional kaleidoscope expertly controlled. A dip into Rienzi brings the hymn-like Allmächt’ger Vater, carolled tenderly on high. From Lohengrin we hear the Grail narration, lingeringly beautiful in its two original stanza version. Tristan und Isolde is officially unrepresented, though its moods and phrases haunt the Wesendonck Lieder — unusual fare for a male voice, but with Kaufmann utterly convincing.

All told, in the depth and variety of its different registers, in the urgent response to every word sung, Kaufmann’s voice has never seemed in finer fettle. But this CD presents an added attraction: Wagner without tears. To anyone wary of the suffocating Wagner mystique or the operas’ sheer bulk, here are two reasons for trying again: seriously gorgeous music, presented in performances that pierce the heart. Decca

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