Limelight, Jan 9, 2014
By Clive Paget
Kaufmann wins Limelight Recording of the Year 2013
Limelight's critics select the year's top 40 classical releases – and pick a winner!
Despite the usual doom and gloom about the future of the compact disc, as far as quality goes, 2013 turns out to have been a bumper year for the recording industry. Our reviewers have been pouring over the pick of the crop to choose a coveted Limelight ‘Recording of the Year’.

In addition, we asked each one to come up with their three personal outstanding discs that they reckon would enhance anyone’s collection. But first, the big one:

CRITIC: Clive Paget

In the liner notes, Jonas Kaufmann recalls a moment from his childhood. His grandfather sits at the piano, illustrated vocal scores of the Wagner operas open before him, singing his way through every role – summoning the vassals along with Hagen and “hojotoho-ing” his way to the top of Brünnhilde’s rock. Thus did young Jonas learn of Lohengrin, Tannhäuser and the terrible tale of the Nibelung’s ring. It’s been a sensibly cautious journey, but the Munich-born tenor has recently moved into the heavier end of the German repertoire.

This is Kaufmann’s first all-Wagner disc and it’s a thrilling experience. He starts with Die Walküre, but instead of Winterstürme he opts for Siegmund’s more interesting sword monologue. In six glorious minutes, Kaufmann runs the gamut from resolute hero to romantic dreamer and back. And so it goes on. He lightens the voice for Siegfried’s forest monologue while Rienzi’s prayer offers a classy bel canto turn tossed off with panache. Tannhäuser’s narration is riveting – not a sign of strain or wobble, and who can one say that about these days? His Am stillen herd from Die Meistersinger is ravishing – smooth yet ardent.

As a bonus we get a gripping male interpretation of the Wesendonck-Lieder. The engineering is exemplary. In short, this is superb. I can’t think of a finer Wagner recital – ever.

CRITIC: Martin Buzacott

This is the full package – a great singer in repertoire to which he’s ideally suited, supported by an excellent orchestra with first rate recorded sound. A generation or two down the line, our inheritors will be asking, “Why are there no more Kaufmanns?”

CRITIC: Steve Moffatt

Kaufmann has a voice with a baritonal richness unusual in a tenor which makes him ideal for the music of Richard Wagner. It’s a voice that only comes along once in a few decades and here the 40-year-old from Munich is very much on his home turf.

CRITIC: Warwick Arnold

The way Jonas Kaufmann is going he will one day be mentioned alongside Windgassen, Svanholm, Vickers and dare one whisper...Melchior.

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