Kaufmann in Recital, Barbican, London, review: Kaufmann has utter control and warmth of tone

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann began his two-week Barbican residency, performing music far removed from his big operatic roles and accompanied by pianist Helmut Deutsch 

Cara Chanteau
Thursday 09 February 2017 11:18 GMT
Kaufmann with accompanist Helmut Deutsch performing at the Barbican
Kaufmann with accompanist Helmut Deutsch performing at the Barbican

Today’s most sought-after tenor Jonas Kaufmann began his Barbican residency with a recital of much more out-of-the-way fare than his habitual Verdi, Wagner or Strauss. The first half was devoted to Schumann’s setting of 12 songs by a Doctor Kerner, now only remembered through this association. Broadly romantic and slightly pallid compared with Schumann’s better-known cycles such as Dichterliebe, they nevertheless gave full scope for Kaufmann to amaze with his utter control and warmth of tone, capable of turning from stormy power to the most fragile pianissimo floating on the edge of audibility.

Honour must also be paid to the supreme artistry of accompanist Helmut Deutsch, matching him at every turn as they stepped sideways into French repertoire with Henri Duparc’s Mélodies (Baudelaire and others), then forward to Benjamin Britten’s passionate Seven Sonnets of Michelangelo. It offered a generous catalogue of what this charismatic tenor can do in recital.

There had been concerns after bleeding on the vocal cords had forced Kaufmann to cancel four months’ worth of engagements. Such fears were allayed after a triumphant return in Lohengrin in Paris last month. Now Londoners can reassure themselves that Kaufmann’s voice remains the same magnificent instrument, deployed – as ever – with assured grace and precision.

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