The Buffalo News, September 8, 2013
Mary Kunz Goldman
The Best of Jonas Kaufmann, (Decca Universal). The smoldering tenor Jonas Kaufmann captivated me from the first time I heard him, which was in a recording of Schubert’s “Die Schoene Mullerin,” a song cycle I am very picky about. I mentioned my love for that disc to a friend in Los Angeles, a music-savvy woman who shelled out to see him in recital and came back as dazzled as I was. When people look back on our era, I think Kaufmann’s will be one voice that stands out. It has depth, gravity, resonance and emotion. He displays a tremendous commitment to the music he sings. He can sell even a trite aria as few singers can. Even Verdi, a composer I am currently inundated with, is irresistible. This disc, like so many discs these days, emphasizes Italian arias at the expense of the French and Germans. The record companies must know their market; this must be what people want to hear. We get three Verdi arias, three Puccini (one, from “La Rondine,” with Renee Fleming) and arias from Giordano, Cilea, Leoncavallo and Mascagni. I’m grateful that anything else was included at all, that the producers did throw in one Strauss song, one Mozart aria, one Weber and - oh, wait, two Wagner excerpts, one from “Die Walkure” and the other from “Meistersinger” (the Prize Song). In the Strauss song, the wildly passionate “Cacilie,” Kaufmann’s voice, powerful though it is, is almost drowned out by the splashy, deafening orchestra. I like this song better with piano. Kaufmann puts an enchanting spin on the Prize Song, giving it a quiet, Italianate subtlety. In the end the disc delivers what “best of” discs promise: You get to see a little bit of a big voice. And plenty of pictures, which in Kaufmann’s case is a good thing.

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