Evening Standard, 19 February 2018
Barry Millington
Wolf: Italienisches Liederbuch, London, 16. Februar 2018
Jonas Kaufmann/Diana Damrau review: Love songs hit the right notes
Weaving a narrative of sorts round a generous selection from Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook, Diana Damrau and Jonas Kaufmann enacted the drama with a repertoire of hugs, shrugs, winks and grimaces.

Some may have found it all too coy, and it could be argued that a listening partner is not congruent with the self-communing nature of the genre.

Yet it worked well, not least in the second half as each character reacted to the other’s complaints.

Their sequence began with a series of folksy numbers, in which the gesturing compensated for nugatory emotional content. But the first half ended with the pair momentarily finding joy in four of the finest love songs, delivered with touching passion.

It was the love songs that showed Kaufmann at his best, when he was able to fine down his heroic tone to something more intimate. His extraordinary breath control enables him to project long legato lines, but their expression is generalised, not geared to individual words.

His tone, though always appealing, is sometimes too capacious, too operatic for such miniatures.

Damrau, by contrast, a bel canto specialist, proved more attuned to the scale of these gems. Mir ward gesagt, for example, was ideally tremulous. Helmut Deutsch deserved a bouquet for his responsive accompaniments throughout.

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