Gramophone, Awards issue
John Allison
Kaufmann’s power and artistry are undeniable in this impressive release
Editor's Choice
It should no longer come as a surprise, but however many times one has heard and admired Jonas Kaufmann, the size of his voice can seem astonishing whenever one returns to listen again. Though he opens his new disc quietly, in the rapt voice required for “In fernem Land”, his tenor is immediately very striking for its body and well supported control. Lohengrin — bel canto Wagner, as it were — is the most recent role Kaufmann has taken on in the theatre (he added it to his gallery of characters this summer in Munich), and his sense of story-telling here shows how he already inhabits the part.

Indeed, the weight of his voice is reminiscent more of a young Jon Vickers than Kaufmann’s acknowledged idol, Fritz Wunderlich. In his “Bildnis” aria, the first of two from Die Zauberflöte featured here, there is less of that Wunderlich-like sweetness of tone by which most Taminos are measured, and it’s possible that Kaufmami will be outgrowing this role soon.

Celebrated for his versatility, the German tenor has been successful in key roles of the French and Italian repertory, but here he shows a special affinity for works in his native tongue. The German Romantic theme is set already on the CD cover, where he is portrayed as Caspar David Friedrich’s Wanderer. And that quintessential German Romantic work, Fidelio, is the centrepiece of this disc: it receives a powerful performance from both tenor (his opening “Gott” is heart-piercing) and conductor. It’s good news that Kaufmaim is to record Florestan on Claudio Abhado’s new recording of Beethoven’s masterpiece.

Abbado has long been a champion of Schubert’s operas, and his accompaniments with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra here are especially rewarding — not least in the wind-writing in Alfonso und Estrella. Kaufmann has also sung the title-role in Fierrabras widely, and it suits both the tenor’s power and his strong sense of musical line.

Kaufmann ends where he began, with Wagner. Parsifal (Lohengrin’s father) was his first Wagner role, and Siegmund is still, wisely, some way off into the future. But his beautiful phrasing and controlled singing in the “Wintersttirme” shows why he has become the most sought-after tenor of his generation, and is a highlight of this exciting new release.

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