Audiophile Audition, April 29, 2014
Steven Ritter
SCHUBERT: Winterreise
A soaring, radiant, yet bleak reading of a work that embodies many contradictory elements.
The astonishingly brilliant Jonas Kaufmann tells us in the notes to this release that he treats Winterreise in much the same way as an operatic role; it is easy for him to immerse himself in Schubert’s character, to become him, and to feel things as the protagonist feels them. This is certainly something that comes across very well in this new recording, yet another in a long line of recent Winterreises that prove beyond a doubt that Schubert singing has never been better than it is now.

Kaufmann is a tenor, and this cycle was conceived for a tenor even though it quickly was adapted for other ranges also; nevertheless one wonders how the original voicing affected Schubert’s conception. Though most of the great recordings are probably baritones, it’s nice to hear such a fine one in the higher range. But Kaufmann isn’t your normal tenor; his voice is rich and rugged in many ways, with a baritonal veneer that allows him an extraordinary range of expression and coloring. Too often this work is performed with a rather lackluster “goodbye cruel world” tone that misses the very real and esoteric layers of emotion present in each bar. Kaufmann knows this, realizes the complexity of the subject matter as well as the unbelievably expressive nuances that Schubert puts into this music, and makes the most of every moment. Helmut Deutsch is no slouch either, with partnership that enlivens and compliments Kaufmann’s instrument. This is, like so many others recently, highly recommended!

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