Jonas Kaufmann, Helmut Deutsch, Wigmore Hall, review: A brilliantly accomplished recital

His sound had its usual burnished fullness as he delivered the Schumann songs

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The Independent Culture

When the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann gives a recital, it goes without saying that it will be perfect from start to finish, and the only technical gripe which could be levelled at his Wigmore performance was that it was occasionally too loud.

His programme was generous and interesting, seasoning the familiarity of Schumann’s Dichterliebe with five of his rarely performed Kerner Lieder, and that of Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder with Three Petrarch Sonnets by Liszt.

His sound had its usual burnished fullness as he delivered the Schumann songs (one saw why the Kerner Lieder aren’t often done), but the Heine settings of Dichterliebe, though finely nuanced, didn’t move the heart as they should have: only the suppressed horror of ‘Ich grolle nicht’ – in which the poet sings of the ‘night’ be perceives in his beloved’s cruel heart – generated the right sort of frisson.

But the Wagner and Liszt songs allowed Kaufmann to move into his operatic comfort zone, where he deployed his wonderfully flexible bel canto artistry. ‘Im Treibhaus’ – a dry run for ‘Tristan’ – was all chromatically drifting harmonies, while Liszt’s sonnets visited the tenor stratosphere; here Kaufmann’s pianist Helmut Deutsch, delicately suggestive in the Schumann, produced the requisite virtuosity.  

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