Jonas Kaufmann impresses with his finely judged phrasing, psychological acuity and seductive swagger
MusicWeb International
Göran Forsling
Close to five years ago I reviewed a Kaufmann disc which focused on popular songs and operetta arias from the 1930s. It was a delightful disc which has visited my CD player regularly ever since. The present disc is a kind of sequel, even though here the focus is on Vienna and several of the numbers take us back to the 19th century.

Sequels often tend to be second best and I’m afraid that’s the case with this one too. Kaufmann’s heavy Wagner roles the last few years have not left his voice unscathed. The tone is drier, the top notes are more strained than before and there is less glow than before. This doesn’t imply that it’s a bad disc. Kaufmann still has style and good taste and his honeyed soft notes can still entice the listener. Just listen to Zwei Märchenaugen (tr. 12). Many of the songs are old friends, which also means that they have been sung by great names in the past: Richard Tauber and Joseph Schmidt in the interwar years, Nicolai Gedda and Fritz Wunderlich after the war and lately Daniel Behle – all of them lighter voiced than Kaufmann and one shouldn’t forget the versatile Peter Alexander, actor, film star, entertainer but born in Vienna and with a genuine Viennese lilt in his singing.

Admirers of Jonas Kaufmann will no doubt want this new disc and besides all the well-known songs there are some rarities. Draussen in Sievering from the long forgotten Johann Strauss operetta Die Tänzerin Fanny Elssler is certainly an attractive acquaintance, the song from Weinberger’s Frühlingsstürme was also new to me – Weinberger had a great success in the 1920s with Schwanda – Hans May is also a composer seldom heard today, and when did I last hear Leopoldi’s In einem kleinen Café in Hernals? Probably in Peter Alexander’s charming LP Wiener Spaziergänge in the early 1960s. Charming is also Kaufmann’s reading and he even indulges in whistling in the second stanza. Benatzky’s Ich muss wieder einmal in Grinzing sein is of course well known, but Kaufmann sings it so elegantly that I feel transported to a Heuriger in the outskirts of Vienna with Schrammelmusik and all that. Peter Kreuder’s Sag beim Abschied leise “Servus” is another long-time favourite that Kaufmann sings so softly and lovely. And all the Strauss numbers are also charming. Two of them are duets with the excellent soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen, who also partners Kaufmann in the ubiquitous Lippen schweigen from the Merry Widow. These three duets are true highlights.

With the prestigious Vienna Philharmonic under Ádám Fischer as backup the framework is well catered for and the recording is state-of-the-art. As I intimated in the beginning of the review Kaufmann’s singing is not as assured and classy as on the previous pop album, but Kaufmann in less than mint condition is still worth a listen.

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