John Steane
This superb tenor builds on his Award-winner with opera arias to be savoured
‘Romantic Arias’ - Editor's Choice
‘Were the position of World’s Top Tenor available, there may be no stronger candidate at present than Kaufmann’
The more delicate critical constitutions among us will recoil at the very idea of there being anything so distasteful as a World’s Top Tenor, but were such a position available and the title to be competed for, there would probably be no stronger candidate at the present time than Jonas Kaufmann. The Gramophone Award-winning Strauss Lieder recital showed his quality in that field, and now it is complemented by an operatic recital that represents him in the 19th-century repertoire which remains central to the public estimate of what is fitting, though the refined critical constitution may not like that either.

Kaufmann’s voice, warm and full-bodied in its middle register, has an excitingly brilliant top. It has a Latin richness, and the elements are well integrated. The German component (his home town is Munich, though you might have thought Vienna more likely) accounts for the broader musicianship that shapes his phrases and fashions his tone as an instrument sensitive to modulations of sense and sound. The recital opens with Rodolfo’s La bohème narrative, and fine as that is, the Flower Song from Carmen, which follows, is still better. Deeply touching in the sincerity of its appeal, it is nevertheless offered as song, its lyrical inviolate, the B flat of “et j’etais une chose a toi”, a climax not of volume but of devoted tenderness.

I felt too that the recorded sound caught him most truly in this. Along with the Rigoletto, Don Carlos and Manon arias, it brought him before me as remembered “in the flesh”, whereas

I found that elsewhere some element in the tonal balance (an over-insistence on upper frequencies perhaps) somehow blurred the individuality. The Traviata I thought disappointing: too heroic in the recitative, almost completely unsmiling in the aria (he should hear Gigli).

For the most part this recital is a triumph. Some Mozart is promised in the future. If that is up to the standard of this, and if both, in replaying, live up to the Strauss, then in those world stakes putatively mentioned above he will pretty certainly collect my vote
(The Cd was among the 3 finalists for the Gramophone Award, but Cecilia Bartoli won.)




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