This recording gives a noble profile of Wagner that could hardly be bettered, either in terms of the voice or the range of the material. Jonas Kaufmann is simply a marvel in this music, giving it the power it needs, and the daring, but also bringing the volume down so that a certain tenderness comes across as well - both Rienzi's prayer and a monologue from Siegfried bring this out. You can hear a connection with bel canto singing in the sense of line that becomes here a continuous melody, as well as with Mendelssohn in some of the harmonies, even though Wagner takes the language in a much more chromatic direction. Kaufmann's daring is also vital in more extravert numbers - his 'Walse!' is certainly not quickly forgotten in its passion, even if it does rise above the note in pitch. It is a fantastic recital, matched by the superb cushioning of Donald Runnicles and the Orchester der Deutschen Oper, Berlin. The inclusion of the Wesendonck-Lieder, usually sung by a female voice, shows Kaufmann unafraid to move into uncharted territory, with moving results. It is one of the greatest song cycles, and, as he says in the booklet interview, there is nothing in the text that is gender specific, unlike, say Frauenliebe und -leben. It is wonderful that this recording exists!
on 7 May 2013
In a rare stroke of luck my order arrived a couple of days after I had seen the recent Met broadcast of Parsifal with Kaufmann as the innocent fool. I have hardly stopped playing this disc since. The singing is exceptional, the orchestral playing superb and Decca have been generous enough to include the additional chorus on "In fernem Land, unnahbar euren Schritten" - readers may like to look for this piece sung by Kaufmann that someone has uploaded to YouTube. The rendition here is heart breaking.
When the disc appeared I was reminded of a similar disc from the late Peter Hofmann that was released in the mid 1980s. Much as I liked Hofmann's voice, this older recording had more crowd pleasers and it is to Kaufmann's credit that he has earned rave reviews from by including some less obvious choices.
If you have not bought this yet the press 'add to basket'.
on 21 March 2013
I look forward enormously to the inevitable stage performances of Jonas Kaufmann in Rienzi, Siegfried, Tannhauser when the time comes. Here we are given a tantalising glimpse of joys to come. A peerless singer of enormous intelligence, range and dramatic capability exhibiting radiant tone -Kaufmann mesmerises audiences and sells out the largest venues. Here his nuanced interpretation of each work marks him out as a truly great singer. The orchestra is well tempered and attuned to the dramatic landscape of each piece -supporting the singer and transporting the listener to the world of Wagner's libretti. This is surely how Wagner would have wanted his tenor roles to be sung. A fitting 200th anniversary celebration.
The Wesendonck lieder -usually sung by female singers- were beautifully performed and were a delightful unexpected gift to the listener.
First the quibbles: the voice is placed a little too far forward in the aural mix in at least some of these selections. Unlike one reviewer, I don't hear the quality of the voice as compromised, but I prefer the balance that we have in the Romantic Arias disc, conducted by Abbado. Second quibble: the "Tannhauser" Narration is beautifully sung, but singers with less equipment have conveyed the desperation more wrenchingly. Kaufmann has yet to sing the part on stage, and, given the wrenching singing he did in "Parsifal," I would expect him to be able to improve even on this version.
But these are my only complaints, and they don't touch the quality of this remarkable voice or of his singing, in which there is no technical challenge that isn't met. How rare it is to hear a Wagner singer bring to the individual roles the distinctive "tinta" that each requires. Even Heppner and Jerusalem, great singers both, at their best, weren't quite able to do that. When this recording was first released, there was some tut-tutting among critics about Kaufmann's decision to sing the Wesendonck Lieder. Well, to my ears, they are sensationally sung, and, if you don't like "bleeding chunks" from the operas, these lieder themselves are a reason to acquire this CD. For a sample, try "Schmerzen: the solid, almost baritonal beauty of the middle and lower voice is just astounding, and when he has to go up into the tenor areas, there's no strain at all. Of the "bleeding chunks," I loved the "Siegfried" selection -- it catches the boy-man in all his vulnerability, wonder, and humor, and since much of the surrounding scoring is light, it catches the innocence before the experience that is to come later in the opera and in "Gotterdammerung." It was also good to hear the "complete" version of "In fernem Land." The second section doesn't merely repeat the first, and Kaufmann brings urgency and humanity to it. The orchestral work is fine, and a special shout-out to Markus Bruck, who sounds great in his few lines from "Lohengrin" and "Tannhauser."
Kaufmann is now 44 -- and he still sounds great. But this can't go on for ever. His recent work is that of a tenor of exceptional quality in his prime. There are DVDs and CDs out there that you should get now, and this is one of them.
on 13 October 2013
I had not thought of Jonas Kauffman as a performer to be associated with Wagner but this shows that one must not have pre- conceptions.
The tenderness and emotion that he brings to these pieces which, whilst very familiar, is astounding. The extract from Tannhauser is especially good. This CD will remain popular for years to come- I gather that a similar collection of arias by Verdi has been produced which I will be buying shortly. Don't hesitate buy it now.
on 21 March 2013
I had never heard this particular individual sing before, boy was i glad i purchased this CD. He has a voice that is simply outstanding. Wagner as a historical figure is someone i have been studying and fascinated by, i have finally begun to listen to his great works. This is a marvelous ensemble, that has been given real life and vigor by a man clearly gifted with a unique talent..Buy it and see..
In these days of a dearth of Wagnerian tenors, Jonas Kaufmann stands out like a good deed in a naughty world. It is too easy to slip into superlatives when listening to him throw himself into six great Wagner tenor arias from six different operas without any apparent strain or damage to his magnificent instrument. If I am honest, I have two very minor reservations about what is otherwise a veritable feast of Heldentenor singing, devoid of bark, slide, whine, strain or glottal attack - just pharyngeally resonant, baritonally coloured vocalisation complete with ringing top notes and a poet's way with the text. They are these: first, Kaufmann is very closely miked and as such we are not really hearing anything like an opera-house acoustic, for all that we know he can fill those big, empty spaces. Secondly, Donald Runnicles' accompaniments are a tad careful and under-dramatised, emphasising beauty over imagination - sometimes even verging on the slack. I don't want to make too much of that when the playing is so good and the sound so grateful on the ear. I miss a little of the magic which a truly charismatic conductor can impart to the Woodbird music in the "Siegfried" excerpt but it's the combination of the tenor's power and subtlety which carries the day. Having said that, the orchestral postlude to the "Rienzi" aria is exquisitely played.
Of course these chunks merely have the effect of wishing to hear him in more complete roles, and these are gradually appearing in various formats, if not as what is now the rara avis of a studio recording.
Kaufmann remains the most striking and virile Wagner tenor of his voice-type since Ramon Vinay and Jon Vickers, whose timbre his so strongly resembles. We shall probably never hear another Melchior but to the majority of opera-lovers alive Kaufmann offers the best opportunity they will ever have of hearing Wagner sung superlatively. He shows no signs of acquiring vocal bad habits, having since curbed the glottal tic which was creeping into his Pinkerton back in 2008 and his artistry waxes with his experience. The slight hoarseness inherent in his tone lends it a distinctive character and an advantage in conveying desperation, which is why his Don José, Don Carlos (elsewhere) and Tannhäuser here in this recital are so affecting; the latter's monologue generates a gripping intensity. Of course, his diction is exemplary, too, and his willingness to sing softly a blessing, especially as it enhances the impact of his full-throated notes.
Of special interest is the original, two-stanza version of the "Lohengrin" narration and it forms the high point in an already definitive collection of Wagnerian highlights. Kaufmann is utterly credible as the heroic paradigm of chivalry.
For many, the surprise here will be in the manner of his delivery of the Wesendonck Lieder. It is rare to hear these songs performed by any voice other than a mezzo-soprano or a dramatic soprano as designated by Wagner and Kaufmann certainly makes the case for their interpretation by a tenor of his calibre - even if I won't necessarily be reaching for his version before those by Janet Baker, Christa Ludwig or Eileen Farrell; the female voice lends a special erotic frisson to these languorous songs, even if Kaufmann can compete with them in terms of legato and even beauty of tone.
on 23 October 2013
Wagners bicentenary is celebrated by many excellent orchestras and artists, but towering above most of them is Jonas kaufmann, whose recording shines in all its splendour and beauty. Highly recommended
Jørgen Jacobsen, Hirtshals , Denmark
on 21 October 2013
Kaufmann has a unique and astonishing voice. It is one of the most musical and manly voices ever. The voice,with its baritone quality, it gives old favourites a completely new sound.
on 20 March 2013
i loved this record -jonas kaufmann is superb -his range tone and musicality make these masterworks so approachable and must enrich and enlarge the audience for this meistersinger