The New York Times, Oct. 11, 2021
By Anthony Tommasini
Liederabend, New York, Carnegiehall, 9. Oktober 2021
Two Singers Reveal the Core of Art Song, on Stages Big and Small
This weekend, Jonas Kaufmann gave a recital at the vast Carnegie Hall, while Will Liverman appeared at the intimate Park Avenue Armory.

Two recitals over the weekend in New York might have seemed, at first, to inhabit very different realms of art song.

On Saturday evening at Carnegie Hall, Jonas Kaufmann, one of the world’s leading tenors, presented a program of songs in German.
Carnegie Hall, which sold out nearly all of its 2,800 seats for Kaufmann’s engagement, is massively bigger than anything the progenitors of lieder could have imagined.

Yet at its core, art song is a genre in which music is put, sensitively and compellingly, at the service of poetic texts. And though the stages Kaufmann and Liverman performed from could not have been more different, both artists proved themselves singers who put words first.

Kaufmann, who has been frustratingly elusive in New York in recent years, appeared with his regular recital partner, the fine pianist Helmut Deutsch. They began with nine works that can be heard on their recent recording of lieder by Liszt, whose roughly 90 songs remain somewhat overlooked. In “Vergiftet sind meine Lieder,” an impassioned setting of a Heine poem, Kaufmann was almost in Wagnerian mode, like a despairing Tristan, singing with burnished top notes, yet shaping aching phrases tenderly.

Now and then, in the Liszt songs and elsewhere, his voice had its rough patches. (A week earlier, he had canceled some performances in Munich because of a tracheal infection.) But he mostly rallied, and sounded at his clarion-voiced best as the program went on. These Liszt works are marvelous, full of musical-poetic flights, alternately epic and ruminative. The piano parts, not surprisingly for this composer, are often elaborate, with daring chromatic harmonies and wondrous colorings. I was most impressed, however, when Kaufmann lifted melting phrases with focused and floating sound, like the pianissimo moments of “Die Loreley.”

He then sang 13 songs by Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Zemlinsky and others, ending with Mahler’s profound “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” (from “Rückert-Lieder”), in an effectively restrained performance. That was supposed to have ended the recital, after 75 minutes with no intermission. But the enthusiastic audience had other ideas, and Kaufmann complied, with six encores. During the last one, Strauss’s “Cäcilie,” Kaufmann, visibly annoyed, stopped after a couple phrases. “I do everything for you,” he told the audience, “but please respect the rules and don’t film!” People applauded in support, then he started over — and sang vibrantly.

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