I could easily find this CD to be more of an irritation than anything else-yet another collection of excerpts from the finest tenor suited to Wagner in a generation, with until today no complete recording of any of the operas (I am excluding Blu-ray performances!). I`m not a fan of excerpts discs at the best of times, but with Kaufmann even the "well it's better than nothing" syndrome was beginning to wear thin. Fortunately all this is counteracted not only by my having received the new complete Gergiev Walkure to soften the blow, but this disc DOES finally contain a complete work, albeit not one intended for a tenor. The excerpts from the operas are superb-we get the unexpurgated "In Fernem Land" from Lohengrin, a superb Rome Narration, excerpts from Rienzi and Meistersinger and snippets from Walkure and a tantalising Siegfried murmuring superbly in the forest (sorry!), all sung with the dark burnished tone and firm legato we have come to expect. As an aside, what a nonsense this makes of trying to build up Klaus Florian Vogt as a Heldentenor-I actually find his thin and feeble voiced attempts to be pathetic in comparison to Kaufmann. The orchestra is full and rich-the former "German State Opera Berlin" Orchestra has a distinguished recording past with Wagner and beyond, with outstanding recordings under Konwitschny, Jochum, Maazel, Sinopoli and Thielemann to name but a few, and here is in magnificent form under another under employed great Wagner conductor in Scotland's own Donald Runnicles-would that the 2nd and 3rd rate recordings made by Pentatone under Janowski had used THIS orchestra and conductor as this very change would surely elevate them to first class! The absolute GOLD of this recording is the Wesendonck Lieder performed for the first time to my hearing by a tenor. Wagner marked the score "For the female voice" but I have no doubt he would have applauded this performance. I am open to hearing songs more normally associated with the female voice sung by a tenor-I treasure a recording of Jerusalem and Masur in Strauss Lieder, and Melchior in Schumann, but this is something else. The smoky tones of his baritonal tenor are ideally suited to each song, with tenderness in Der Engel, you can almost feel the sultry heat in Im Triebhaus, Schmerzen is filled with tortured anguish and Traume has an erotic passion and sensuous line which bodes so well for any future assumption of Tristan-we can but hope! It's a masterclass in great singing and artistry, with Runnicles and the orchestra caught in rich, radiant form and perfectly balanced-so not an irritation at all, then!!!! This is by far the finest recording Kaufmann has made and it is destined to be a classic of the genre. A "must hear" for lovers of Wagner-and great music making. Unlimited Stars. Stewart Crowe
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