The Evening Standard, 6 February 2017
Barry Millington
Liederabend, London, Barbican, 4. Februar 2017
Jonas Kaufmann/Helmut Deutsch, review: The world's favourite tenor is in fine voice
Jonas Kaufmann's technical control was as impressive as ever in a challenging and imaginative programme, writes Barry Millington

To secure the world’s favourite tenor, Jonas Kaufmann, for a three-concert residency is an undoubted coup for the Barbican, though it’s been a nail-biting few weeks. Kaufmann’s well-publicised vocal indisposition necessitated six months rest and naturally he was anxious about his London comeback, changing his programme up to the last minute.

The good news is that he is in fine voice. In a challenging and imaginative programme his technical control was as impressive as ever. In Schumann’s Kerner Lieder, Kaufmann projected the bluff journeyman songs with engaging energy. When he unleashed his full tone the effect was thrilling, if essentially operatic.

Kaufmann has of course a voice of unmatched quality and a musical intelligence to complement it. But while he entered the introspective world of the last five songs, his response to the text was less subtly nuanced than a Goerne or a Fischer-Dieskau.

In a selection of Duparc songs the unfolding of legato lines was superbly done, though here again the heady, wafting fragrances and sensuousness of the texts (Baudelaire and others) eluded him.

To Britten’s Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo, Kaufmann brought ardour, impetuosity and also inwardness. Resorting often to a half-voice, he succeeded in catching the tension between erotic and chaste love, even if what one heard suggested that the role of Aschenbach in the same composer’s Death in Venice might tempt him one day. Helmut Deutsch was the excellent accompanist.

Kaufmann’s fans will be relieved the voice is largely unimpaired and still capable of extraordinary things. It will surely come into its own with Wednesday’s Wagner, however.

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