Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin - Kaufmann, Deutsch 4781528

. . . to hear Kaufmann¿s dark-timbred, beautiful, near-heroic and extrovert performance comes as something of a shock. I doubt that Schubert¿s cycle, purely in vocal terms, has been more thrillingly sung on disc since Fritz Wunderlich recorded it for Deutsche Grammophon . . . he has been wise to wait until he was 40 before setting down his mature interpretation. He still sounds a fresh-faced youth in the opening songs, launching the side-slapping Das Wandern (Wandering) with marvellous, athletic vigour, even if his voice has darkened considerably. His diction and eloquence in German is immaculate, but the years have brought insights and vocal refinements that make this version of Schubert¿s masterpiece one of the most compelling in recent years. I haven¿t heard Die Liebe Farbe (The Beloved Colour), in which the rejected lad declares that he will dress in the green of the hunter, whom the titular fair maid of the mill prefers to him, sung with more sardonic bitterness than here, and the final three songs -- Kaufmann reducing his substantial tenor to a thread of tone -- have rarely moved me more. With more resignation than self-pity, he leaves us in no doubt of his tragic end, lulled to an eternal sleep in the stream in which he drowns himself.

Given the exposing nature, both technical and emotional, of the work itself, few recent recording projects have run quite such extraordinary risks or conveyed quite so remarkably the tension and glory of a live performance. It is one of the greatest accounts of "Die Schöne Müllerin" on disc . . . It's big in scale: Kaufmann's soft singing is exquisite . . . Interpretatively, it's fairly straightforward: Deutsch's playing has an unsentimental, expressionist edge; Kaufmann, however, is having none of the modish psychoanalytic approach that sees Schubert's Miller as deluded from the outset, presenting us instead with an unneurotic examination of love and loss, in which the terrible emotions of the second half seem all the more excruciating after the optimism of the start. Not for the faint-hearted, but highly recommended.

. . . an interpretation solidly centred on a simple and powerful emotional arc. Unlike some singers, Kaufman doesn¿t darken the narrative from the beginning, a decision that only enlarges the devastation wrought by the hero¿s journey from bliss to despair. Deutsch plays his music equally straightforwardly . . . the artists mingle with ease and spray the air with wonders. But the biggest blessing remains the performance¿s single-minded trajectory as joy fades and despair grows until the hero finds rest in his watery grave.

Kaufmann gets it right. He is natural and . . . he lets the songs¿ youthful, guileless emotions shine. His voice, too, lends itself well to this music. It¿s a rich low-timbred tenor, almost a baritone, and its robust, good-natured strength makes the cycle¿s tragedy that much more heartbreaking. The last song is incredible.

Jonas Kaufmann and Helmut Deutsch's "Die schöne Müllerin" is as close to an ideal realization of Schubert's song cycle as you can find on disc. Apparently recorded in a single concert performance (with a remarkably quiet audience and thankfully no sudden intrusive applause at the end), the 20 songs not only tell the fateful tale of the young miller but, thanks to Kaufmann's artful expression, easily and believably draw us into the heart of the singer's emotional journey as well . . . we truly feel the youthful joy . . . of the optimistic young man (and not a hint of tragedy to come) in Kaufmann's ebullient "Das Wandern". The timbre of Kaufmann's voice -- an unusual rich, baritonal tenor -- may give the impression of a character more mature than the poet describes, but we certainly miss nothing of the "young soul" that Kaufmann so affectingly portrays in the early songs. The shift from carefree spirit to excited, hopeful love, to anger, and then despair is more subtle than in some renditions of this popular work. But this more carefully nuanced progression helps make little details more noticeable, such as the wonderful sense of doubt and even foreboding suggested by the piano chords at the end of the 12th song, Pause . . . by the time we hear the miller's "thanksgiving to the mill-stream" (Danksagung an den Bach), Kaufmann has us under both the spell of his voice and of Schubert's remarkable musical portrayal. Along the way, Kaufmann and Deutsch treat us to interesting little variations in the strophic songs . . . while bringing uncommon lyricism and emotional depth to the through-composed melodies. Kaufmann's "Der Neugierige" may be the best ever recorded, and his high-register soft singing is as lovely as you'll hear in any repertoire. Deutsch's playing is commendable for its faithfulness to the letter of Schubert's notation -- a rest truly means rest(!) -- but it's memorable for its ultimate deference to the spirit of the music that lies between the notes and barlines. The Kaufmann/Deutsch partnership is a winning one where Schubert is concerned, and whether an existing fan of this masterpiece or a listener looking for discovery, don't hesitate to choose this; it's an exquisitely sad journey you'll be happy you took.

Kaufmann uses an unusually wide range of vocal colours to show the hero's development, and is even prepared to make him sound slightly silly or petulant, which is
fully congruent with the words . . . When the home stretch of numb misery and then annihilation sets in, Kaufmann commands a hypnotic tone which leaves one, as the long
last song draws to its close, to wish that it could just go on lulling forever. One would never know this was a live recital, the audience was obviously as spell-bound as I was.

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann continues to amaze . . . [he] is in top form . . . The title role in Lohengrin, which Kaufmann already has performed, is exquisitely sung. Both of these issues are essential for the vocal collector.

The Munich-born tenor Jonas Kaufmann brings to life Schubert's "Die Schöne Müllerin", one of the great song cycles of the tenor repertoire . . . Interpretively, his approach is fairly straightforward. But there are moments of extreme drama. In the fourteenth song, "Der Jäger," (The Hunter) when the protagonist practically screams in rage against his rival, Kaufmann lets it rip. And while Kaufmann is a low tenor, his soft high singing is second to none, as in "Der Neugierige" (The Inquisitive One). Pianist Helmut Deutsch plays with an cool, even expressionistic edge that perfectly squares with Kaufmann¿s dynamic interpretation.

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann is one of the most glamorous figures in German opera since Peter Hofmann . . . This latest volume of romantic-era arias shows why: From Mozart's Magic Flute to Wagner's lyrical tenor roles (Lohengrin, Siegmund), every performance gives a clear face to each character and strong emotional purpose to every phrase. A key figure in this artistically distinguished package is conductor Claudio Abbado, who offers intriguingly lyrical glimpses of his take on Wagner's final masterpiece, Parsifal, in some extended excerpts. One hopes he records the whole opera soon.

Tenors are like hothouse flowers. But Jonas Kaufmann has held up well . . . Kaufmann is a beautifully expressive singer . . . The aria album (conducted with bravura by Claudio Abbado leading his Mahler Chamber Orchestra) runs the gamut from Mozart's Tamino (the lighter end of the tenor spectrum) to Beethoven's Florestan and Wagner's Parsifal (the heavier end). Musically, Kaufmann has no problem with any of it . . . The "Schöne Müllerin" cycle is delivered with tremendous nuance . . .

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann has already impressed with his CDs . . . and on DVD as Don José in the hottest Carmen ever. Noticeable throughout of his output has been his dark, burnished tone, attention to both the composer's dynamic markings and the text, an innate musicality, and great intelligence and commitment. But this new CD surpasses them all -- here he is clearly on his home ground: German opera, from Mozart to Wagner. We get glimpses of his Lohengrin, Parsifal, and Siegmund, and they're just what we've been waiting for. The fact that Kaufmann has sung so much Italian opera stands him in very good stead with German music . . . he approaches this music as if it were bel canto, only, in the case of Wagner, grander. His attention to legato and line is astonishing: The two Lohengrin excerpts are begun at a semi-whisper, almost as in a trance, and build to their exclamatory climaxes in the most natural manner, as if the opening note knew instinctively where the last note would wind up. The Parsifal chunks . . . have such passion and dignity that the opera's torment and faith are all here in these few minutes. Siegmund's first-act "Winterstürme" is lyrical in ways Wagner lovers can usually only hope for . . . the "Bildnis" aria and Temple Scene and "Wie stark . . ." should be treasured; his voice is far bigger than we're accustomed to in the role, but he sings with the grace and class of Fritz Wunderlich. And Kaufmann is probably the only tenor I can recall to sing perfectly Florestan's aria from Fidelio, with a remarkable crescendo on the high G of the first word, and absolute accuracy and comfort in the manic final segment. His impeccable diction gives the scene the intensity it requires as well. Two rarities from Schubert operas, Fierrabras and Alfonso and Estrella, are daring and poetic, respectively. When all is said and done, this recital is so successful not only for the sheer singing, but for Kaufmann's ability (and intellectual desire) to find the right vocal color and temperature for each character: how tender and sad Lohengrin sounds; how desperate, beaten, and, ultimately, hopeful is Florestan; and how perfectly ready to be the Knight of the Holy Grail is this Parsifal! Needless to say, the fact that Decca has engaged Claudio Abbado to conduct, and has made certain that there are assisting singers and chorus, is a sure sign of the tenor's importance. He seems to be worth every bit of the effort. Stay tuned -- this guy is one of the world's great tenors.

One of the hottest singers today is German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, who uses his robust voice to penetrating effect here in excerpts from operas beloved and neglected . . . Kaufmann is particularly vibrant in the Wagner excerpts, which show his baritone-tinged tenor to be ideal for the heroic and lyrical demands. Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra are fervent collaborators.

What we hear on this concert recording is a consistently beguiling, utterly melancholy and persuasively alluring performance . . . Kaufmann's is often a study in vocal beauty, with the final "das Wandern", "das Wasser" and "die Steine" in each verse of the first song every bit as liquidly lyrical as his "O dolci mani" -- how many miller lads have breathed 'the millstones' with so much poetic fervour? His singing of the first three little lines of 'Danksagung an den Bach' comes close to perfection, the expansive phrases taken in a single breath as Gerald Moore once wrote that they should be, echoing the gently flowing stream . . . Kaufmann is most impressive in 'Morgenstern' -- his "O lass mich nur von ferne stehn'¿ von ferne, ganz von ferne" must be one of the most irresistible pleas ever committed to disc . . . In 'Pause' Kaufmann makes the phrase "Ich kann nichts mehr singen, mein Herz ist zu voll" really mean what it says . . . In 'Trockne Blumen' the detail given to the phrase "tote Liebe", the naked emotion of "heraus, heraus" and the slight break in the voice at "Winter" are all emotionally gripping, and the final song is deeply moving. It almost goes without saying that Helmut Deutsch is an ideal accompanist: he brings with him a lifetime's experience and love for this work, and it is no exaggeration to say that not only does he seem to breathe with the singer, but he phrases the music like an echo of the voice, supportive yet characterful, and always in the service of the music . . . Kaufmann's legions of fans will be delighted with this recording, and it should sell in healthy numbers . . . Kaufmann's is a version I would not want to be without.

Kaufmann's grand manner doesn't preclude subtlety, or quiet singing either, as demonstrated beautifully in "Die Neugierige." . . . Kaufmann's considerable appeal sustains the performance . . . it provides new insight into a worthy singer.

His vibrant, heroic tenor voice with its baritonal timbre gives an athletic aura to his singing. But his is decidedly an out-of-the-mainstream approach to this music. It took several hearings just to get accustomed to the sound of a voice not usually heard in this literature . . . the visceral sensation of his voice can easily draw more attention than the music . . . his expression and use of dynamics are excellent, and he shows a clear understanding of the psychological dimensions of the cycle as he follows the inexorably descending path into desolation. When he scales back his voice to a delicate pianissimo, he is spellbinding.

[Kaufmann] scales down his operatic instincts to bring subtle drama to the interior life of the lovesick protagonist, showing exquisite vocal control. Helmut Deutsch is a sensitive partner.

Dass Jonas Kaufmann seine Mittel perfekt beherrscht und damit den unbekümmerten jungen Burschen des Anfangs ebenso reich und vielfarbig gestalten kann wie den am Ende tragisch Scheiternden, das steht sowieso außer Frage. Vor allem imponiert, wie die schon im Werk angelegten Gefühlskontraste bis ins Extrem gesteigert werden. Der gleichsam explodierenden Gefühlsbekundung folgt in einem wahrhaft traumhaften Pianissimo die zärtlichste Liebesbeschwörung, die sich denken lässt. Aber wenn der Verliebte seinen Zorn über einen offenbar erfolgreicheren Nebenbuhler ergießt, dann modelliert Jonas Kaufmann das Grundgefühl der Eifersucht mit 1000 Facetten weiter aus, ohne dabei der Gefahr zu erliegen, dass der überwältigende Reichtum in Einzelheiten zerfallen würde. Der Opernsänger Jonas Kaufmann hat mehr als einmal seine Vielseitigkeit bewiesen. Doch mit dieser Interpretation der "Schönen Müllerin" lernen wir ihn wieder von einer neuen Seite kennen. Und ohne dass er noch einmal ausdrücklich auf das Thema zurückkommen müsste, versteht man am Ende sehr gut, warum er sich gerade für diesen Lieder-Zyklus entschieden hat . . . Wer sich sowieso von dieser CD viel versprochen hatte, bekommt noch mehr als er erwartete. Die Einspielung gehört zu jenen Raritäten, bei denen jeder lobende Superlativ verdient ist.

Gerade in den schnellen, forschen Liedern . . . profitiert Kaufmann sicher von seiner Opernbiografie: Indem er sich voller Inbrunst und als müsste er¿s darstellen, ja spielen, in die Seelenqualen des liebend Leidenden, Hoffenden, Jubelnden stürzt . . . Sein viriles, eher baritonales Timbre verschafft ihm . . . die nötige Autorität . . . Hier sagt einer, wie es ihm ums Herz ist, hier geht es nicht um Konzepte oder darum, singend alles "richtig" zu machen und aus einem Guss anzufertigen . . . Die Erregung, das Geworfensein zwischen "sie liebt mich" und "sie liebt mich nicht" ist bei Kaufmann immer real, total, immer absolut. Sein Müllerbursche weiß nicht um das bittere Ende, kennt keine Enttäuschung, weiß nur, was er fühlt . . . Kaufmanns Musikalität ist derart frappierend . . . Er deklamiert nahezu perfekt und phrasiert mit einer Natürlichkeit, dass einem alle Zweifel knöchern vorkommen und klein . . . Bei Helmut Deutsch merkt man tiefe Vertrautheit mit dem Notentext. Keine Strophe gleicht in seiner Begleitung der anderen, jeder Akzent hat etwas zu erzählen, und gleich im ersten Lied ("Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust") tanzt das Kopfsteinpflaster, rattern die Mühlräder, rauschen Wipfel und Wasser, dass es eine Lust ist . . . "Trockene Blumen": Als habe das Tränenwasser des Burschen alle Farben und alles Leben aus der Musik gewaschen. Allein die Phrase "Ihr Blümlein alle, wovon so nass?", wie Kaufmann sie hier singt, ganz unprätentiös, mit einem "a" in "nass", so weiß und leer und doch zärtlich dabei, lohnt diese Aufnahme. Sich solche Qualitäten allen Verlockungen und Fliehkräften des (Wagner-)Marktes zum Trotz weiter zu bewahren, ist wahrscheinlich eine Illusion. Jonas Kaufmann lässt uns ein paar Schubert-Lieder lang daran glauben, dass es gehen könnte.

Nicht nur besitzt er eine charakteristische Tenorstimme, er hat sie früh auch schon in den Dienst des Liedes gestellt, wurde noch von Hermann Prey gefördert und profitiert mit Helmut Deutsch von einem der erfahrensten Klavierbegleiter. Schuberts ersten Zyklus singt hier ein noch junger Mann, frisch, frei, modern aber doch immer drängender, um das schlechte Ende wissend.

. . . Kaufmann [vermittelt] die leidenschaftlichen Momente, das Jugendlich-Überschäumende wunderbar glaubwürdig und klangintensiv.
Statt pastellener Biedermeier-Idylle liefert er ein Lieben und Leiden aus Fleisch und Blut mit einigen heldischen Einschlägen. Das erlaubt Kaufmanns Stimme. Das ermöglicht seine gestalterische Intelligenz. Zugleich ist er gefeit gegen alle Gefahren des Manieristischen, sein Wort-Ton-Verhältnis ist natürlich und ausgewogen.

Kaufmann scheint dem Müllersburschen direkt aus dem romantischen Herzen zu singen -- eine unmittelbare Identifikation.

Statt Wiederholungseinerlei setzt es Ausdrucksvarianten in allen sinnfälligen Bedeutungsvarianten, unterstützt vom trefflich charakterisierenden Piantsten Helmut Deutsch. . . . Solche Balance von Identität und Varianz spricht für die seriöse, zugleich expressiv geschmeidige Deutung . . . Am überzeugendsten klingt sein baritonal timbrierter Tenor im heldisch-intensiven Forte . . . [Stark] ist seine typisch markante Deklamation . . . [eine] bewegende, glaubhafte und deshalb intensive Interpretation . . .

[Der Zyklus "Die schöne Müllerin"]: Dessen lyrisches Ich passt gut zum Erscheinungstyp Kaufmanns, zu seiner jugendlichen Stimme. Als naiver, scheuer Müllerbursche wirkt er glaubwürdig. Gut gelungen sind Eifersucht, Zorn, die Bitterkeit, die den im Liebeswerben Unterlegenen erfassen. Kaufmann hat etwas zu sagen . . . Immer wieder gelingt ihm (und Klavierpartner Helmut Deutsch) Sinngebung entlang dem Text . . . Seine "Müllerin" hat einen guten Erzählbogen.

Leidenschaftlich und impulsiv interpretiert er "Am Feierabend", makellos gesungen geht das rastlos interpretierte "Mein!" sofort unter die Haut . . .

Kaufmann vermittelt die Leidenschaftlichen Momente, das Jugendlich-Überschäumende wunderbar glaubwürdig und klangintensiv. Statt pastellener Biedermeier-Idylle liefert er ein Lieben und Leiden aus Fleisch und Blut mit einigen heldischen Einschlagen. Das erlaubt Kaufmanns Stimme. Das ermöglicht seine gestalterische Intelligenz.

. . . cette intensité féline . . . d'emblée s'impose. Le ton est à la passion certes, souvent paniquée, voire angoissée, mais aussi à la tendresse et à l'épanchement (pour le ruisseau entre autres) et à cette couleur du vert printanier qu'aime citer en maints endroits le poète chanteur, amoureux blessé mais porté par un désir irrépressible . . . [Jonas Kaufmann] plonge dans les eaux ténébreuses et parfois âpres de ces gouffres amoureux, amers et tendres . . . un timbre mâle et rauque, qui parvient à captiver par ses couleurs, son intelligence, sa musicalité, son sens de l'architecture globale. On est à 1000 lieux des beaux diseurs, poseurs à la vocalità fleurie, un rien précieuse: ici, la vérité du trait, le relief des sentiments, profitant d'un aigu finalement couvert tout en étant tranchant, à vif, laissent s'épanouir une indiscutable sincérité. Celle qui naît du lien inexprimable et privilégié entre l'homme et le ruisseau . . . Kaufmann se pose moins en narrateur qu'en acteur passionné: il "est" le personnage central dont le chant ne peut être que celui d'un jeune homme aux désirs printaniers bientôt déçus et défaits; connaisseur du cycle édifié par les poèmes de Wilhelm Müller, Kaufmann sait d'abord exprimer l'enthousiasme et aussi l'énergie altière du garçon, puis sa défaite inévitable à mesure que le chant devient nuancé . . . d¿une mordante intériorité, comme poli par les épreuves traversées, celle de la douleur, comprenant désillusion, amertume, blessures du coeur, solitude et incompréhension . . . le ténor munichois ne cesse de nous convaincre. Chapeau bas devant l¿instinct et la conviction de l¿interprète.

. . . sa grande voix d'opéra ne sera-t-elle pas surdimensionnée ? Au contraire ! Non seulement diction, couleur et musicalité sont la perfection même, mais il confère à ces miniatures une puissance dramatique inédite, passant par tous les registres du tragique, de l'ironie, de la révolte, du désespoir : un théâtre de l'âme, habité.

Un Schubert physique, les deux pieds sur terre, à des années-lumière de l'approche intellectualisée de quelques Liedersänger professionnels, et pourtant d'une sincérité telle qu'il porte l'émotion à son comble . . . le plus grand ténor germanique de sa génération . . .