Classics Today
Victor Carr Jr
Jonas Kaufmann
Jonas Kaufmann's hefty yet smooth-textured voice is very different from the Italian tenors with their bright timbre and high squillo tones. It's a comparatively mellow sound, but always there's the sense of power at the ready, as in a well-tuned automobile engine. The sheer bulk of the tone conveys a feeling of heavy lifting as the tenor sings softly in his upper range, something not heard with Jon Vickers, Wolfgang Windgassen, or other great heldentenors of yesteryear. Yet when the music requires it, Kaufmann produces ringing, well-projected high notes.

Wagner, a composer whose contemplative style well suits Kaufmann's voice, makes up the bulk of this collection. The tenor's tender tone and heartfelt phrasing make for touching renditions of Winterstürme (Die Walküre) and In Fernem Land (Lohengrin). Kaufmann's Parsifal is best, powerfully conveying the moment when Parsifal finally gets a clue (Amfortas! Die Wunde!).

Kaufmann's robust Tamino may surprise listeners accustomed to today's light-voiced Mozart tenors, but for me it's nice to hear this character sung with a healthy dose of testosterone. He does Fidelio with similar excellence, though Schubert's Fierrabras and Alfonso und Estrella come across a little stiff (but to be fair, this is not the composer's most inspired music). Overall Kaufmann's singing is consistently compelling--this is one of the few solo recitals today that you can easily listen to all the way through in one sitting. Claudio Abbado provides substantive if not always compelling accompaniments with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Decca's recording provides a mostly natural-sounding soloist/orchestra balance. This is a good one.


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