Jonas Kaufmann impresses with his finely judged phrasing, psychological acuity and seductive swagger
Financial Times, 19 October 2019
Richard Fairman
Jonas Kaufmann: Wien — lavish presentation
Album includes Strauss’s ‘Eine Nacht in Venedig’ along with favourite solos, a handful of duets and lesser-known Viennese songs

A couple of generations ago, it would have been a natural choice to present granny and grandpa with a recording of favourite arias from Viennese operetta for Christmas. These days, they would probably prefer The Rolling Stones’ Greatest Hits.

Each autumn Jonas Kaufmann releases a solo disc for the Christmas market and this year he looks back to the era when a singer like Richard Tauber could guarantee huge sales of Viennese operetta to an adoring public. Tauber died in 1948 and his grave in Brompton Cemetery is still adorned with fresh flowers.

Aptly, Kaufmann says it was his grandmother who inspired his love for the waltzing music of the Strauss family, Franz Lehár and Robert Stolz. At his grandparents’ farm in Tyrol, Austria, he would while away his time singing along, brushing up his Viennese accent.

His first professional stage production was Strauss’s Eine Nacht in Venedig (A Night in Venice), so it is no surprise to find that featured here. Alongside are favourite solos and a handful of duets (with soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen) from Die Fledermaus, Die lustige Witwe, Wiener Blut and others, together with a selection of lesser-known Viennese songs by composers like Hermann Leopoldi, Peter Kreuder and Georg Kreisler.

We might have expected that Kaufmann would show off his darkly romantic, burnished tenor in these mostly sentimental melodies. In fact, he also makes much of the words, helped by a close microphone placement, which adds to the range of expression. The presentation is lavish, with full texts and translations, and Ádám Fischer conducts the Vienna Philharmonic, no less. Even Tauber could not expect that luxury.

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