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Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Wagner / Jonas Kaufmann, Claudio Abbado


Release Date: 04/06/2010 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 001413202  
Composer:  Richard WagnerWolfgang Amadeus MozartFranz SchubertLudwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jonas KaufmannMichael VolleMargarete Joswig
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mahler Chamber OrchestraParma Teatro Regio Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Recording of the Month

In an age where celebrity vocal recitals are becoming far more common than complete opera recordings this is something special because it showcases a very special singer. Anyone who has heard Jonas Kaufmann’s previous recordings – see, for instance, his first recital disc, his Decca Carmen DVD or his EMI Madama Butterfly – or has been lucky enough to see him on stage, such as in the ROH’s recent Don Carlo, will know that he possesses a voice of rare distinction. This disc showcases it perfectly. Unlike his earlier recital disc the focus here is on the – often heavier – German repertoire. It seems that in the 16 months that separated the recording of these two recitals his voice has deepened,
Read more expanded and if anything grown even darker than before. I often had to remind myself that I was listening to a tenor rather than a baritone, an effect which in this repertoire can be quite thrilling. The sheer size of the voice is remarkable, an instrument of heft and power which he nevertheless deploys with ultimate artistry. This makes for a top-notch recital of repertoire that is currently ideally suited to his voice and must surely whet the appetite for great live performances to come.

The Lohengrin numbers are a great opening diptych: the gleaming string tone that begins the disc seems to grow out of nowhere, and it is worth saying here that the recording quality is excellent throughout, clear and luminous without being too close. Kaufmann’s voice is ideally suited to Lohengrin, a role with which he scored such success in Munich last summer (July 2009). Like the orchestral tone, Kaufmann’s voice begins gently, subtly, but then grows in an inexorable trajectory towards the climax on the revelation of his name, a long view which is very rewarding. The farewell to the swan is gentle but suffused with painful regret which is very moving and achieves disturbing levels of violence towards its end.

It is wonderful to hear Tamino sung by a voice of genuine strength and power. It makes the character feel like the regal hero he should be when too often he is taken by a light-voiced tenor with fair tone but little presence. The portrait aria is grand and exciting, a genuine love-song that bursts with longing. The scene with the Speaker is agile and engaging, with a sweet-toned Michael Volle providing well judged contrast. The subsequent aria with the flute is lighter and more beautiful. Kaufmann has long been an enthusiastic advocate of Schubert’s Fierrabras, singing it on stage in London, Paris, Vienna and Zurich – a DVD of the Zurich production exists on EMI. The dramatic potential in Fierrabras’s aria is worn on the sleeve, ardent and surging, while Alfonso’s aria from Alfonso und Estrella flows with gentle lyricism that befits the nature-painting of the text. Florestan was Kaufmann’s first major German role, and the careful shading of the voice through the long Act 2 scena reflects long experience. The opening cry of Gott! grows from a tiny pianissimo to a thrilling - and seemingly endless - forte; In des Lebens Frühlingstagen is gentle and resigned before rising to ecstasy in his vision of Leonore.

Kaufmann’s first Siegmund lies wisely in the future, but his security in the lower registers make his Winterstürme wonderfully warm and he is not afraid to sing piano when the score requires it, though be warned that the orchestral cadence put on the end sounds very odd! Parsifal was his first major Wagner role. There is remarkable strength to the declamations that open his Act 2 scene before moving into anguished intensity for his meditation on the agony of Amfortas. Then the voice is appreciably darker and more heroic for the final sequence as the enlightened, self-denying hero steps up to become the Grail King. The excitement of hearing Kaufmann in these roles only whets the appetite for more Wagner in future years, though he has warned that we will have to wait a long time for Siegfried and Tristan!

The playing of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra provides excellent support throughout, altering their tone masterfully to reflect the music they are playing: going straight from Lohengrin to The Magic Flute it sounds as though you are hearing an entirely different orchestra, from shimmering vibrato in the Wagner to restrained period playing in the Mozart. The clarinet playing in Alfonso und Estrella is just wonderful and the textures shimmer with spiritual intensity in the final bars of Parsifal. Abbado’s support is assured yet unobtrusive throughout: he knows that there is only one star on this disc and he generously avoids getting in the way.

Only the packaging struck me as a little naff, inserting Kaufmann into paintings by Friedrich to emphasise the German Romantic origin of the music, but full texts and translations are also included along with a survey of Kaufmann’s experience and expectations in this repertoire. All in all this is one of the finest vocal recitals to have come my way this year: it shows a vocal artist of the highest calibre in well chosen repertoire that both showcases his strengths and points forward to the future. Excellent.

-- Simon Thompson, MusicWeb International

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Jonas Kaufmann's hefty yet smooth-textured voice is very different from the Italian tenors with their bright timbre and high squillo tones. It's a comparatively mellow sound, but always there's the sense of power at the ready, as in a well-tuned automobile engine. The sheer bulk of the tone conveys a feeling of heavy lifting as the tenor sings softly in his upper range, something not heard with Jon Vickers, Wolfgang Windgassen, or other great heldentenors of yesteryear. Yet when the music requires it, Kaufmann produces ringing, well-projected high notes.

Wagner, a composer whose contemplative style well suits Kaufmann's voice, makes up the bulk of this collection. The tenor's tender tone and heartfelt phrasing make for touching renditions of Winterstürme (Die Walküre) and In Fernem Land (Lohengrin). Kaufmann's Parsifal is best, powerfully conveying the moment when Parsifal finally gets a clue (Amfortas! Die Wunde!).

Kaufmann's robust Tamino may surprise listeners accustomed to today's light-voiced Mozart tenors, but for me it's nice to hear this character sung with a healthy dose of testosterone. He does Fidelio with similar excellence, though Schubert's Fierrabras and Alfonso und Estrella come across a little stiff (but to be fair, this is not the composer's most inspired music). Overall Kaufmann's singing is consistently compelling--this is one of the few solo recitals today that you can easily listen to all the way through in one sitting. Claudio Abbado provides substantive if not always compelling accompaniments with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Decca's recording provides a mostly natural-sounding soloist/orchestra balance. This is a good one.


--Victor Carr Jr, ClassicsToday..com
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Works on This Recording

1. Lohengrin: In fernem Land by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Jonas Kaufmann (Tenor)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1846-1847; Germany 
2. Lohengrin: Mein lieber Schwan "Lohengrin's Farewell" by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Jonas Kaufmann (Tenor)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1847; Germany 
3. Die Zauberflöte, K 620: Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Jonas Kaufmann (Tenor)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria 
4. Die Zauberflöte, K 620: Wie stark ist nicht dein Zauberton by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Michael Volle (Baritone), Jonas Kaufmann (Tenor)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parma Teatro Regio Chorus,  Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1791; Vienna, Austria 
5. Fierrabras, D 796: Was Quälst Du Mich…In tiefbewegter Brust by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Jonas Kaufmann (Tenor)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1823; Vienna, Austria 
6. Alfonso und Estrella, D 732: Schon, wenn es beginnt zu tagen by Franz Schubert
Performer:  Jonas Kaufmann (Tenor)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1821; Vienna, Austria 
7. Fidelio, Op. 72: Gott! welch Dunkel hier!...In des Lebens... by Ludwig van Beethoven
Performer:  Jonas Kaufmann (Tenor)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1805/1814; Vienna, Austria 
8. Die Walküre: Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Jonas Kaufmann (Tenor)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1856; Germany 
9. Parsifal: Amfortas! Die Wunde! by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Jonas Kaufmann (Tenor), Margarete Joswig (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877-1882; Germany 
10. Parsifal: Nur eine Waffe taugt by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Jonas Kaufmann (Tenor)
Conductor:  Claudio Abbado
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Parma Teatro Regio Chorus,  Mahler Chamber Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877-1882; Germany 

Sound Samples

Lohengrin / Act 3: "In fernem Land, unnahbar euren Schritten"
Lohengrin / Act 3: "Mein lieber Schwan!"
Die Zauberflöte, K.620 / Act 1: "Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön"
Die Zauberflöte, K.620 / Act 1: "Die Weisheitslehre dieser Knaben"
Fierrabras, D796 / Act 1: Recitativ und Arie: "Was quälst du mich..."
Alfonso und Estrella, D.732: Schon, wenn es beginnt zu tragen...und mein Herz will ihm nach
Fidelio op.72 / Act 2: "Gott! Welch Dunkel hier!" In des Lebens Frühlingstagen"
Die Walküre / Erster Aufzug: "Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond"
Parsifal / Act 2: "Amfortas! Die Wunde!"
Parsifal / Act 3: "Nur eine Waffe taugt"

Customer Reviews

Average Customer Review:  1 Customer Review )
 Superb recording! June 24, 2012 By Christina Busby (Paddington, New South Wales) See All My Reviews "Magnificent recording of the wonderful Jonas Kaufmann singing a variety of arias from Wagner - also included is music of Schubert and Beethoven. Since receiving this disc I have played it incessantly despite having a lot of other music to play! I particularly adore the arias from Act III of Lohengrin - "Mein lieber Schwan" it is mind boggling. Kaufmann expresses so much emotion in his singing. I highly recommend this disc! Enjoy!" Report Abuse
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