Jonas Kaufmann Sings Schubert

Sunday, April 04, 2010

The Munich-born tenor Jonas Kaufmann brings to life Schubert's Die Schöne Müllerin, one of the great song cycles of the tenor repertoire.

Given the choice of one of Schubert’s three song-cycles to record, Jonas Kaufmann picked not Winterreise – the most popular and obvious of the lot – but Die Schöne Müllerin, or the Beautiful Miller Girl. In a way, it makes perfect sense. This 20-song cycle clearly calls for a young man’s voice, and Kaufman, having just turned 40, is in the professional prime of his career. The cycle tells of a sensitive and carefree young man who sets out to win the miller’s daughter only to have his spirits crushed when she decides to leave him for a real man. Instead of accepting the situation and looking for other fish in the brook, the tenor drowns himself in it. Such is the musical world of Schubert.

A tall and handsome singer who is increasingly heard at the Metropolitan Opera, it’s frankly hard to imagine Kaufmann has had too much trouble finding romance. But he does invest a lot into this recording. For one thing, it was taped live in a single concert last year – unusual and risky given the exposing nature of the work. Interpretively, his approach is fairly straightforward.

But there are moments of extreme drama. In the fourteenth song, "Der Jager," (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.

Die Schöne Müllerin

Jonas Kaufmann, tenor

Helmut Deutsch, piano

Decca

Available at Arkivmusic.com

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