8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
, 20 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Schubert: Winterreise (Audio CD)
Kaufmann is considered the best tenor of his generation, some have gone as far as to consider him as one of the greats. So,how do you describe his voice.? To give you an idea, imagine a mixture of Ramon Vinay's baritone tenor voice with the emotion of Vickers, yet utterly unique. However, what I did was compare Der Lindenbaum from Winterreise, sung by Matthias Goerne, Piano Graham Johnson, (from the Hyperion box set of the complete songs of Schubert) with Thomas Hampson, Piano Wolfgang Sawallisch,(Schubert Lieder on record 1898-2012) and Kaufmann with his long time piano partner, Helmut Deutsch. I found that although each have distinctive voices, they approach this song in their own manner. You could not say, one is better than the other. Both baritones Hampson and Goerne are great Lieder singers and Kaufmann is in their company. This Winterreise cycle shows us why this is so.
Winterreise is a cycle of 24 songs by Franz Schubert, set to poems by Wilhelm Muller. The first part, 12 songs of this song cycle were written in February and the second part of 12, November 1827. Schubert found the poems in the almanac Urania(1823) printed under the heading Wanderlieder by Wilhelm Muller; Die Winterreise in 12 liedern is the subtitle. However, the composer discovered an edition of Die Winterreise (in the second volume of Muller's Gedichte eines reisenden Waldhornisten 1826) with 24 poems; 12 texts that were new to him. Muller's book is dedicated to Carl Maria von Weber. Thus Muller's no 6 (Die Post) becomes Schubert's 13, Muller's 10 ( Der greise Kopf) becomes Schubert's 14 and so on. (Johnson 2005).
The period in which these songs were written was known as the Romantic period. The German branch of that epoch which influenced Schubert, was preoccupied with death, love in death, in love with love, also the strange and the shocking. Nature was viewed as healing, beautiful and mystical; a form of Pantheism. The romantics believed in free expression of the individual, personal feeling and individualism in general. A longing for the inner World of the spirit, with everyday life a mere mirage. This movement was a rebellion against classicism; reason and order, harmony and balance. I believe it is important to understand the period and artistic movements that influenced such works as Winterreise. Also, this work did contain Schubert's views on life at that point, which shocked his friends. He only had a year to live.
However, within this Winterreise CD jewel case, inserted into a velvet cardboard cover,is a booklet with English, French and German translations of the songs. Also, included is a article called "you can't simply carry on as usual afterwards", which has an interview with Kaufmann and Deutsch, his pianist. This article enables you to understand Kaufmann's thinking on how he approaches Schubert's Winterreise. According to Deutsch, " it is a work that affects you on the very deepest level. And when you hear it for the first time, you may well find it fairly depressing. Yet according to the people who organise song recitals, Winterreise is often top of the hit parade. It's a cycle that you can be certain people will come and hear."
Kaufmann feels that Winterreise is an emotional experience that purges the soul."On me, the work has an almost meditiative effect because Schubert expressed these emotional depths with a clarity and a simplicity that I ultimately find consoling and that allows me to regain my inner balance." Jonas had studied maths before he became a singer, so it was thought he was more of a rationalist than a Romantic. He was asked how he felt when he was faced with Schubert's emotional world. " I find it a welcome change to plunge into a completely different world. Yet like an athlete we singers are faced in our profession with lots of things that have to be conducted along rational lines. But when I'm on stage and slip into a role, every kind of rationality vanishes. I think and become the person in question. Yet singing Winterreise i'snt so very different from singing an operatic role. Any one who claims to sing this cycle objectively is deluding himself."
Deutsch said " If I followed my feelings, I'd very quickly lose control of the technical side of things. " Kaufmann felt that Karajan's famous remark about " controlled ecstasy" summed it up. "Everyone, myself included, should have the impression that I am abandoning myself completely to the emotion that i'm depicting, but a final controlling authority ensures that I don't damage my voice or become overexcited."
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