The Times, January 6, 2015
Hilary Finch
Liederabend, Wigmore Hall, London, 4. Januar 2015
Jonas Kaufmann - Wigmore Hall
Standing room only and no admission to the green room afterwards unless booked. This is the sort of evening it was with tickets as high as £100, Jonas Kaufmann packed Wigmore Hall for a recital of mainstream Schumann, Wagner and Liszt.

Kaufmann is the German recitalist who has become ereryone’s favourite Italian operatic tenor. And although only a lieder connoisseur would start his recital with Schumann’s Kerner Lieder, Kaufmann brought a whiff of bel canto even to these songs. Just five from the Cycle were used shamelessly as warm-up material, the voice languid, flexing its muscle, but then finally hitting the spot in one of the song repertoire’s most powerful moments. Stille Tränen (Silent Tears) rose from the mist of dream, floated in head voice, to a crescendo of lacerating paine as the work Schmerz was hurled from the singer’s lungs to the audience’s heart.

Shumann’s Dichterliebe was the evening’s centrepiece. Kaufmann’s relaxed stage presence and simple gestures created moments of intimacy within an otherwise heroic performance. The ballasted baritonic regions of his voice carried the surge of the Rhine, the weight of anger and loss. And in the fragile emotional life of Ich hab’ im Traum geweinet, Kaufmann’s superb breath control created desolation in some of the slowest, quietest singing the song has known.

Helmut Deutsch, always sentient and supportive as piano accompanist, came into his own in Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder, which Kaufmann sang thoughtfully and with deceptive ease. In Liszt’s Three Petrarch sonnets his tenor reached the apotheosis of Italianite bravura for which it had been longing all evening. and then a surprise which brought back the frisson factor: a tiny, hushed encore of Mondnacht from Schumann’s Op39 Liederkreis, a miracle in half-voice, suspended in awe and wonder.

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