Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Wagner - Kaufmann - Anticipation!

Kauffmann Wagner, credit Decca/Universal Music
Jonas Kaufmann's much anticipated Wagner disc is being released by Decca on 12 February. Accompanied by Donald Runnicles and the orchestra of the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, German tenor sings music from Die Walkure, Siegfried, Rienzi, Tannhauser, Meistersinger and Lohengrin. Rather curiously he is also singing the Wesendonck-Lieder, in Felix Mottl's orchestration.


Kaufmann's dark, burnished, almost baritonal tenor would seem a shoe-in for Wagner, but he has taken the steps admirably slowly. He sang his first Wagner in 2006, and has accumulated Lohengrin, Parsifal and Siegfried. In fact the album includes music from significant roles which Kaufmann has yet to perform on stage, notably Siegfried, Rienzi, Tannhauser and Walther (though he has sung Walther in concert). Even in Lohengrin he has recorded music which he has not performed as the Grail narration is sung complete with both stanzas (the second of which Wagner cut).

Wagner has increasingly featured in Kaufmann's stage repertoire, during the 2012-13 season he is performing Lohengrin in Milan, Parsifal at the Met and in Vienna, and of course he famously appeared as Siegmund in the new Met Ring in 2011. He seems to be taking an admirably balanced view of repertoire, after his first Siegmund at the Met, his next role at there was in Gounod's Faust. In many ways this is slightly old-fashioned, admirably I may say, in the way that singers of the past would mix Wagner with other roles. A singer like Jean de Reszke sang a similar range of roles, he continued singing Faust and Romeo et Juliette alongside his Wagnerian appearances.

Kaufmann's choices of repertoire for the disc are not always obvious, so that we get the Sword Monologue from Die Walkure rather than the more obvious Wintersturme, similarly we get Dass der mein Vater nicht ist from Siegfried and Am stillen Herd from Die Mestersinger (rather than the prize song).

With regard to the Wesendonck-Lieder, Kaufmann points out that the poems include no gender-specific references (not that that should really matter nowadays but I suspect major international tenors would still shy away from recording a group of love songs to another man). More problematically, one wonders what the texture of the pieces will sound like with the voice transposed down an octave, so that the vocal line is more embedded in the orchestral texture.

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