on 30 July 2010
Die Schone Mullerin, one of the most popular song cycles of Schubert, sung and recorded by numerous artists in the past and present, from tenor to baritone (to even some sopranos).
Lieder singing is not limited to small voices, I believe. And Jonas Kaufmann just simply offered, with his partner Helmut Deutsche, a glaringly striking example of how lieder singing 'could' be apart from the traditional 'smallish-voiced' singing.
True that the opening pieces may offer the listener certain discomfort, especially if the listener has got 'used to' listening to threads of voices in these pieces. It takes around 4 to 5 numbers before unaccustomed listeners got attuned to Kaufmann's style.
Once got used to, wow, what a jaw-dropping interpretation! What glorious expressiveness! What depth of emotional outpouring!
I cannot find adequate words (given my limited vocabulary) to describe the absolutlely stunned feeling of listening to Kaufmann's Die Schone Mullerin. Let me admit - no one single lieder singer had managed to grip my attention to the extent as Mr. Kaufmann in this entire cycle, not even Fischer-Dieskau, let alone Wunderlich or Gerhaher.
Helmut Deutsche accounts for half of this live performance's success. Both he and Kaufmann presented the cycle as a compact and composite entirety, closely knit in emotion and musicality. Kaufmann's great vocal capacity blends in well with Deutsche's almost aggressively expressive 'accompaniment' - accompaniment may not be the right word, since it is not secondary to the vocal line but everywhere going parallel with it. Without Kaufmann's large vocal expressive capacity, however, even Deutsche's 'accompaniment' would not have worked so effectively.
A marvellous pair in all respects.
If any one seeks to dismiss this wonderful recital as 'another' Die Schone Mullerin, he would be missing out a big deal!
on 14 December 2010
This was bought on the strength of a BBC Radio 3 live performance of this song-cycle. The simple Amazon listing was enough to confirm the item but contained no details apart from the title and performers' names. If I'd been buying this item cold I would have looked for more information such as the date of recording, with other reviews of this particular performance.
The item arrived very quickly, well packaged.
The actual performance is, as expected, first class. Kaufmann is not the usual light-voiced recitalist: as an experienced opera singer he brings a dynamic range wider than one usually hears in a recital room. His fortes are quite strong yet his handling of quiet passages is extraordinarily fine. At all times his voice is perfectly controlled and expressive.
A thoroughly enjoyable performance at a reasonable price. Strongly reccomended.
Recorded at Max-Joseph Staal,Munich, 30th July 2009 during a live concert performance. The audience is exceptionally quiet.
The piano is by Steinway & Sons
Duration: 1 hour 3 minutes.
The included booklet contains texts in German, English and French.
on 20 May 2011
This is very different from recent versions by British singers. Kaufmann uses all the colours of his magnificent voice and immaculate technique to bring to life this tragic tale. Dramatic yet intimate, he always sings with a beautifully legato line (and, of course, with perfect diction)and there are moments when it is hard to restrain tears. Deutsch provides wonderful partnership with a welcome approach of minimal pedalling, which keeps the textures light.
This is one of the great contemporary interpretations of this cycle. One can only hope for a "Winterreise" within the next year or so to accompany it.
on 17 May 2010
How refreshing to hear a young man's voice singing Schubert! And a tenor too, singing, I presume, in the keys tha Schubert wrote. And a German tenor too, not one of those weedy English tenors, who so often regard this as their territory, or one of those gloomy German baritones, who need the pitch lowered, and who spit out the text. Jonas Kaufmann has a heroic voice that resembles the voice of the late (and much missed) Fritz Wunderlich, a little older than Wunderlich, but sounding much as he might have done had he not died so young. Kaufmann sings with much energy and subtlety and holds his audience spellbound. For a LIVE recording there is not a peep out of the audience, except for enthusiastic applause at the end.
For a tenor who sings regularly in great opera houses, about to sing Siegmund in the new MET Ring, and sings and acts a spellbinding Don José in Carmen, this is some feat!
His partner at the piano is Helmut Deutsch, who suports him ever moment. The recording is so good that one doesn't notice it. One can only urge Herr Kaufmann on Zu neuen Thaten!
As always, Jonas Kaufmann illuminates this marvellous, gentle song cycle from within. His voice gives the noblest utterance to its tale of a young man who falls in love with a miller's daughter, initially from afar, then through a few chaste meetings, and through to his betrayal when she seems to switch her affections to a more assertive, somewhat nebulous hunter. The colour green features a lot, often in verse of beautiful simplicity by Wilhelm Muller: one minute he loves it, the next rejects it completely, as the object of his affection turns away from him. It recalls the kind of paintings created by Moritz von Schwind, perhaps with a note of Chagall added - this reflecting Schubert's imaginative reach beyond his or any one era. One might imagine perhaps a more timid boy than Kaufmann sounds; there is always a touch of the Wagnerian hero, albeit scaled down, that leaves you wondering how this girl could find him lacking in relation to his rival. But the vagaries of love make anything possible ... One feels that Schubert himself would be closer to the kind of profile suggested, loving from afar and not blessed with the kind of looks that would stop a girl in her tracks.
Kaufmann's singing captures the full range of emotion, beginning with ardour and tenderness. His strong, manly voice gives wondrous projection to this, even against type ... and he sounds young enough for the part, which he says made him want to set the recording down (it is actually a live event). In addition, there is his fantastic diction, completely at one with the intelligence of the voice. The German language sounds so incredibly beautiful as he pronounces it. He is ably supported by Helmut Deutsch, who seems a true collaborator, and their interview in the booklet bears this out. Kaufmann has clearly thought a lot about the meaning of the cycle, but is always modest in the way he puts his views. It makes for enlightening reading. I would also disagree with the reviewer who takes issue with the cover. To me it shows the complete empathy of Kaufmann with his alter ego, and through the painting of a pretty young girl, already sets up the archetype of young love where beauty abounds and purity of feeling, yet it can all lead to such heartbreak ... It is an inspired image, bringing together art and the real in the same frame.
My touchstones for this wonderful song cycle have always been the recorded performances of Aksel Schiøtz accompanied by Gerald Moore - an incomparable, vintage account, but obviously in hissy, mono 1945 sound - the delectable sibling team of Ian and Jennifer Partridge in a speedy, thistledown-light 1973 CfP disc and, in pure vocal terms, Fritz Wunderlich's 1966 version which is unfortunately compromised by stodgy, unimaginative pianism. All three of these tenors are demonstrably lighter and brighter than Kaufmann and thus capable of injecting more fantasy into the quieter, higher passages; Kaufmann, with his baritonal timbre must work far harder to achieve a delicacy and poignancy which come more easily to his tenor forebears. He also has to work harder to fine down his big sound and achieve intimacy in the big, resonant acoustic given to him by Decca; at times, especially in the earlier, exuberant or declamatory songs he seems a little crude alongside the poise of, say, Schiøtz. He does not really have the right vocal "face" for this music but does wonders with the voice he has, even if it is not as intrinsically beautiful as others.
One thing is certain: Helmut Deutsch draws upon his vast experience to provide some of the most fluid, fluent and subtle acccompaniment we have heard for years in this deceptively simple music; he is alive to every nuance of phrasing and dynamics and matches his singer with unfailing sensitivity.
My first listening of this disc prompted an odd sensation of dejà-vu. I do not mean that necessarily as a criticism, but Kaufmann's vocal characteristics are so individual that I knew how he would sound in this music before I heard it: the husky, slightly "windy" Vickers-style production of his mezza-voce, the long breath, the baritonal heft the perfect German diction, are all very welcome - but I am sometimes more aware of listening to Kaufmann than I am to Schubert, if you follow me; some effects sound a little calculated compared with the simplicity these folk-songs require. He also sounds decidedly ill-at-ease in the near Sprechstimme of "Die Jäger", which at this speed requires a fleetness beyond him. I think if I did not have an attachment to the older recordings mentioned above, this could be a first choice as long as you favour his style, but I cannot in all honesty say that I find Kaufmann's larger scale delivery as moving or affecting as his predecessors. It is still a lovely performance by perhaps the best tenor before the public today and conforms to my (and, according to the liner notes, Kaufmann's) conviction that this cycle is far better delivered by a tenor than a baritone. Who could believe that one of the reasons why Kaufmann chose to record it was that he is already forty and wanted to capture his interpretation while his voice still encompassed youthful ardour? He certainly does that and, in addition, manages a welcome degree of yearning melancholy. His fans will not be disappointed.
PS: What marketing genius at Decca sanctioned the tacky cover photo?
on 27 June 2010
Not sure about this one. Maybe it's just me, but for me this is a baritone song cycle, or at least a tenor-with-baritone-timbre song cycle. Jonas Kufmann's voice is an interesting tenor, with excellent control on the whole (though there's the odd flat note), but for me it lacks the depth and weight to really do justice to some of the songs. There is, however, a stunning moment at the end of Die Neugierige when he repeats 'Liebt sie mich', which almost justifies buying the CD on its own. However, if I'm honest, it's because it gives a tiny glimpse of what this voice is capable of. Of course, Schubert lieder are all about subtlety and understated raw emotion, but for Kaufmann reflects this in a rather thin tone at times, lacking the perfectly judged poignancy of e.g. the great Dietrich Fischer Dieskau or Andreas Schmidt.
on 30 August 2013
Jonas Kaufman's singing is a marvel. The quality of his voice and the intelligence of his interpretations have made him one of my best-loved singers. He reaches Deep into one's heart with this recording of one of Schubert's loveliest song cycles.
on 10 April 2014
Not quite up to the standard of his Wintereisse but still among the best that I have heard of this work. Obviously the voice is superb but I'm not sure he had thought out his interpretation to the same extent as with Wintereisse but, of course, I may be wrong here. I will still listen to it often when I feel like a change from Operatic and heavier SCALE WORKS.
on 11 April 2016
Kaufmann here uses mainly a light timbre and thus underlines the youthfulness of the singer. Having said this, he knows when he needs to give extra weight to his voice to convey the growing frustration with his love and his sadness. The accompaniment is sensitive and does not overwhelm the voice.