Musical Toronto, February 5, 2013
By John Terauds
Tenor Jonas Kaufmann a prime example of what Wagner should sound like
Sung well, theres nothing that moves the soul like Wagners vocal music. But its intense demands can, over time, abuse the vocal cords. Older Wagnerian tenors often sound ragged as they huff and puff and push out the notes.

German tenor Jonas Kaufmann is, at 43, right in the vocal sweet spot both physically and artistically. He has a strong, burnished timbre and tremendous dynamic range. He also displays impeccable musicianship in a new Decca album of opera excerpts and the Wesendonck-Lieder by Richard Wagner.

Kaufmann gets strong, impeccably nuanced support from the Orchestra and Choir of Deutsche Oper Berlin under conductor Donald Runnicles.

What has, to me, often sounded like vocal overkill on Kaufmanns part in Italian opera sounds perfectly natural in this 11-track release, officially set to go on sale Feb. 18.

The most popular of the tenors choices is Am stillen Herd from Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. That is joined by Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater from Die Walkyrie, Dass der mein Vater nicht ist from Siegfried, Insbrunst im Herzen from Tannhaüser and the Grail Narration from Lohengrin with bass-baritone Markus Brück, and Allmächtger Vater, blick herab! from Rienzi.

This is a sort of Wagner survey, showing off the development of his compositional style (even though the tracks are not arranged chronologically). The earlier operas are more conventional. The Ring operas demand a special style that combines the clarity of speech with the smooth phrasing of song.

When I listen to Wagner, this is how I dream it should sound. What a gift for the 200th anniversary of the composers birth.

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