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Jonas Kaufmann - Wagner - Gramophone


01 May 2013
Gramophone
Mike Ashman

Turn immediately to the Tannhauser excerpt. Mighty tents are already pitched on the summit of early Wagnerian arioso - Melchoir and Szell, Windgassen and Sawallisch, Kollo and Soltibut Kaufmann and a superbly paces accompaniment from Runnicles and his German orchestra are up there with them. Kaufmann both darkens and stresses up his voice to portray the failed pilgrim's predicament, and he and the conductor make daring and unison use of fermatas.

Elsewhere, the novelties of this carefully thought-out recital include the ‘original' version of Lohengrin's Grail Narration (two verses with linking chorus) and, again following earlier colleagues like Melchoir and Ricard Tauber, a performance of the Wesendonck-Lieder. I remain unconvinced (pace the artist's booklet defence) that the latter really work dramatically or a male voice - although Kaufmann gives so much attention to dear Mathilde's texts as to render their barely Alice Elgar level of poetic inspiration almost too clear, and Runnicles make Mottl's plain orchestration as echt Wagnerian (i.e. Tristan-esque) as possible, Kaufmann's full Act 3 narration is now even more polished and ecstatic (‘high' is the word I want to use) than his noted Munich and Bayreuth performances. The other operatic excerpts, including a sizeable chunk of Siegfried's Forest Murmurs and a truly improvisatory - sounding ‘Am stillen Herd', also find the tenor pushing the confines of a recital disc excitingly towards the level of live performance.

Subtly recorded (in East Berlin's atmospheric-sounding Funkhaus studio) and, as I hope I've already indicated, magically accompanied, the disc is something of a triumph.


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