, Tuesday 19 August 2003
Tim Ashley
Schubert: Die Winterreise, Edinburgh, 16 August 2003
Jonas Kaufmann
Queen's Hall
Glamorous German tenor Jonas Kaufmann became the international festival's star two years ago when he sang Schumann and Strauss at the Queen's Hall. Since then, Edinburgh has effectively become the platform for his finest work in the UK - a place where he can develop his career and where we can watch his remarkable progress.

This year found him and his regular accompanist, Helmut Deutsch, tackling Schubert's gruelling Winterreise, a work that Kaufmann has avoided until recently, claiming he was unwilling to sing it until he felt absolutely ready. Now, it would seem, he is very much ready, though his performance comes as something of a jolt, for this is Winterreise as we rarely hear it nowadays. Kaufmann treats it very much as a high Romantic statement rather than opting for the expressionist emoting that many interpreters prefer. His isolated traveller stands very much in the aesthetic tradition that links Byron with Wagner - haunted, self-lacerating, craving oblivion and metaphysically rebellious.

Kaufmann consequently thinks his way through the work in extended paragraphs, conveying its emotional agony more through the lyrical unfolding of the vocal line rather than through ironic inflections of the text. His voice has become weightier of late, and his dark tone, poised somewhere between tenor and baritone, and ringing with astonishing fullness in its upper registers, has an uncanny aptness throughout. This is already a remarkable interpretation that may grow even more profound with time.

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