Jonas Kaufmann is a star tenor on a career path aimed more towards
Wagnerian opera than the intimacies of the recital hall. So how would he
steer his broadening voice through the delicate Die Schöne Müllerin, in a
venue as cosy as the Wigmore? Very deftly, it turns out. Charged with the
passionate conviction Kaufmann so often radiates on stage, this was not just
a convincing interpretation but a moving one.
At 40, Kaufmann is still just about young enough to sing the miller boy
at face value, as a naif falling in love and then, having been thrown over,
cooling into a desire for death. Except for a fleeting doubtful inflection,
there was no early hint of the bitterness to come; this was not a
protagonist gifted with hindsight. Helmut Deutsch's piano reinforced the
upfront approach, motoring along with the relentless propulsion of a mill
wheel. Deutsch could be slightly dry, but was a good foil for Kaufmann's
The pivotal moment towards tragedy was Die Liebe Farbe. Some make this
song, with its obsessively repeated piano note, into a study of numb
acceptance, but Kaufmann's and Deutsch's many-coloured interpretation
described a whole world of disillusionment. Here and throughout, the effort
it cost Kaufmann to contain the operatic heft of his voice gave his singing
a highly expressive vulnerability. The final songs, hanging on the
slenderest thread of tone, were heartbreaking.
For the encore, Kaufmann and Deutsch treated us to more Schubert, and the
subject and atmosphere of Der Jüngling an der Quelle fitted so perfectly it
might almost have been written for the purpose.