Übersetzung der El Mercurio Kritik
Juan Antonio Muñoz H.
Jonas Kaufmann in “Winterreise”: Relentlessly seeking rest
“Winterreise” (D 911), Franz Schubert’s cycle (1797-1828) on poems by Wilhelm Müller, is a musical drama that can be read as the story of a young man, desperate on account of a lost love who travels through a winter landscape, and also as the discovery of the desolation of a man, expressed in the description of the climate, finding the ultimate realities. It is, therefore, a cycle about death, perceived as longing and rest. Death, in this case, replaces what has been lost; the further the young man distances himself from his love, the further he distances himself from his life. A really deep sea in 24 songs; an open sea of feeling.

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann addresses this huge work from emotion and his wager renews each Lied for our time and works as catharsis. It purifies, in a sense. His many nuanced voice, to which he confers abysmal meanings, builds an environment that is essentially meditative and dreamlike, as if the “moment” in which it is produced were the one which precedes death, in which a whole life or the most important things in it are recapitulated. He insists on solitude and in the option to finish once for all.

“Gute nacht” (Good night) is the first poem and it begins with the word “Fremd”, stranger, because as such we come into the world and into love. Kaufmann reveals right from the start the state of dejection of the wanderer, whom he will move through pain and fury, showing the understandable weakness of his pleas, as in “Die Wetterfahne” (The Weather-vane): Was fragen sie nach meinen Schmerzen? (Why should you worry about my suffering?).

The piano, in the miraculous hands of Helmut Deutsch, draws the notes that describe “Gefrorne Tränen” (Frozen Tears) and Jonas Kaufmann resorts to alchemy in the question “Dass ich geweinet hab?” (Have I cried?) to tell us that he has done so and that the drops that fall from his eyes are so warm that they freeze “like the cold water of dawn” (“wie kühler Morgentau”). His voice seems that of a bass-baritone in “Ei Tränen, meine Tränen” (Oh tears, my tears), as it sinks into the depths —how low can he sing? — in “Des ganzes Winters Eis!” (All the Winter’s Ice). The use of appoggiatura in the words “Tränen” (tears), “Eise” (ice) and “Brust” (breast) highlight the intense perturbation of the young man.

Love gets mixed up with anger in “Erstarrung” (Numbness), and the proposed journey passes through the stations of annoyance-anger-pain-longing. Pain reigns and Kaufmann gives us to understand that the young traveler prefers to sing that pain because if he silences his suffering, who will talk to him about her? It is a way of seizing for himself, of owning, something that does not exist except in the wishes of his mind.
Schubert adopts Monteverdi in this cycle; his songs are the romantic reflection of the stile rappresentativo. “Der Lindenbaum” (The Linden Tree) may be the best expression of this, both because the declamatory style triumphs and because there is a dominant tone of remembrance. It is Helmut Deutsch’s piano that murmurs melancholy while Kaufmann comments “Du fändest Ruhe dort” (There you will find peace) and asks with his voice if it is possible to find happiness by reliving the past. The answer is “No”.

“Wasserflut” (Torrent) provides the contrast between the fluid vocal line and the restless piano. Helmut Deutsch, remarkable! There are beautiful ascending lines, made for the tenor’s lyricism, who finds a new climax in the word “Weh” (affliction). In “Auf dem Flusse” (On the river), he rebukes the “wild” (wilder) river that has become quiet and confusing when he asks “Mein Herz, in diesem Bache /Erkennst du nun dein Bild?” (Heart of mine, do you recognize your image in this stream?). “Rückblick” (Retrospect) shows the struggle between the lark and the nightingale —that once tormented Romeo and Juliet—, and here joy identifies itself with unreality. From the piano, Helmut Deutsch says that the dream will not happen; it is an “Irrlicht” (Will o’the wisp), title of the following song which tells us that “Every current finds its sea, / Every sorrow its tomb” (Jeder Strom wird’s Meer gewinnen, / Jedes Leiden auch sein Grab”.

There is weariness in “Rast” (Rest), where the piano once more begs for some hope until we get to “Frühlingstraum” (Dream of Springtime), with Kaufmann amid a dreamy meditation in which he sighs “Ich träumte von Lieb um Liebe” (I dreamt of love for love) just before “Einsamkeit” (Solitude) makes him become aware of the void. “Die Post” (The Post), with its implacable bar of silence after the first verse, confirms again the absence, a key to turn to for “Der greise Kopf” (The grey head), where the death wish is explicit: Wie weit noch bis zur Bahre! (How long now until the coffin!).

“Die Krähe” (The crow) represents evil omens and brings death mixed up with the young man’s obsession with fidelity, and “Letzte Hoffnung” (Last Hope) reverses the meaning because we know that there is nothing to hope for; that is why the leaves float on falling and that is why the voice rises through the staff to fall immediately one octave. In “Im Dorfe” (In the Village), the barking dogs are the conflicting forces that assail in life, and “Der stürmische Morgen” (The Stormy Morning) is the perfect climate for the young man’s feelings, whose heart is torn by the “Täuschung” (Deception).

“Der Wegweiser” (The Signpost) is the song that raises the unanswered whys, expressing something which seems to come from Jonas Kaufmann’s own soul, fully portrayed in the phrase “Ohne Ruh’ und suche Ruh” (Relentlessly seeking Rest). The tenor himself, the same as the young wanderer, chooses hidden paths that others do not follow. When he gets to “Das Wirtshaus” (The Inn), the signs indicate that all the rooms have been taken; death still does not want him. What beauty in his voice when he says “Bin matt zum Niedersinken / bin tödlich schwer verletzt” (I am weak enough to lie, deathly wounded). That is why “Mut !” (Courage) comes next, sudden —and final— joy bound with some courage and strength. A decision to commit suicide? It is likely: “Will kein Gott auf Erden sein, / sind wir selber Götter” (If there is no God on Earth, / we ourselves are gods!”).

We must behold the beauty of “Die Nebensonnen” (The Phantom Suns), maybe because we cannot explain what those “Drei Sonnen” (Three Suns) the traveler talks about, mean. The symbol here is a mystery and the tenor, in a final stupor, begs for that “darkness where I will be much better” (Im Dunkeln wird mir wohler sein). It is what precedes the “encounter” with “Der Leiermann” (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man), where Kaufmann dominates with his tenderness and confirms his decision to let himself be taken away: “Will you accompany my songs with your lyre?” (Willst zu meinen Liedern / deine Leier drehn?”).

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