The Telegraph, 1 November 2010
Rupert Christiansen
Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin, London, Wigmore Hall, 31 October 2010
Jonas Kaufmann sings Die schöne Müllerin, Wigmore Hall, review
Jonas Kaufmann's performance of Schubert's song-cycle provided an unforgettable evening of high-level music-making. Rating: * * * * *  
Apparently it’s more than five years since the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann gave a recital in London, and such is his renown that this performance of Schubert’s song-cycle saw the Wigmore Hall besieged for tickets.

The lucky few were not disappointed: Kaufmann offered some of the most beautifully crafted, sensitive and intelligent lieder singing that even this connoisseurial audience can have heard in recent memory.

With his black curly locks and noble profile, Kaufmann looks more like a Pre-Raphaelite vision of Jesus Christ than the hapless apprentice on whose emotional life Die schöne Müllerin is focused. But from the first note, without any phoney dramatising – his arms scarcely moved more than 90 degrees in the 70-minute duration – it was clear that Kaufmann was completely immersed in the boy’s character and dilemma.

His singing is without mannerism. In the opera house, he may be the master of big Wagner and Puccini roles, but at no point did one feel that he was self-consciously scaling down his voice for the occasion. Technique and expression were one; no corners were cut, nothing was faked or fudged.

Steady as a rock – not a hint of vibrato or tremolo, and the pitching sounded perfect to me – Kaufmann refined his richly textured yet clearly focused tenor down to a thread of sweetness in “Der Neugierige” and “Trockne Blumen” and then thrillingly let it rip in “Ungeduld” and “Eifersucht und Stolz”.

The early songs were notable for a wonderful leggiero, a smoothness and lightness of line that seemed to float on the breath. Later, in “Pause” and “Die liebe Farbe”, as the mood darkens and the worm turns, Kaufmann captured all the painful bafflement of an innocent youth whose happiness is turning to misery, and he just doesn’t understand why. The infinite melancholy of the final song, “Des Baches Wiegenlied”, as the boy stares into his own grave and time stands still, was simply heart-stopping.

With a superb pianist in Helmut Deutsch who played as if he was Kaufmann’s alter ego, this was an unforgettable evening of music-making at the very highest level. A housekeeping note. Much as I welcome the manager’s pre-performance plea for muffled coughing and silenced mobile phones, does his tone have to be quite so nannyingly finger-wagging? Though I have to say that on this occasion, there was pindrop silence throughout.

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