Jonas Kaufmann will sing both vocal parts in Das Lied von der Erde

Jonas Kaufmann will sing both vocal parts in Das Lied von der Erde


norman lebrecht

April 15, 2016

It’s with the Vienna Philharmonic in June, conductor Daniele Gatti.

The tenor sections should present no problem for his vocal range, but why tamp down the colours in the piece by having the same voice sing the mezzo/baritone role?

Not sure this is such a good idea.



  • Olassus says:

    He was supposed to sing the tenor part in Munich, opposite Christian Gerhaher, in concerts by the Bavarian State Orchestra led by Kirill Petrenko on March 14 and 15.

    Petrenko made this plan known at the streamed season announcement event a year earlier, by which time JK had pulled out. Petrenko pretended to have forgotten that the wobbly, loud, dumb Peter Seiffert had been substituted, ruining his plan to pair the two imaginative, essentially lyric voices of JK/CG. He must have been furious.

    The first “movement” is hell on the voice, and we have already seen how JK fares in it in the televised Berlin concert a few seasons back led by Claudio Abbado.

    • Olassus says:

      That said, Vienna/Paris may be a triumph for Jonas Kaufmann (despite the mediocre Gatti) because all the smart music is in the mezzo part, most obviously in the extended last “movement” — and Lied is JK’s strongest suit.

  • Dianna De Martino says:

    I agree Kaufmann will pull this off with great aplomb. Firstly, he has a wider range than most Tenors, over 3 octaves. Secondly, he has high musical intelligence & wouldn’t attempt this if he felt he was compromising the integrity of the piece. Also, he is a highly accomplished lied singer, who sings with such nuanced phrasing & has so much color in his voice, that there will be enough contrast in both the Tenor & the Baritone parts. My only regret is that I won’t be in Vienna to enjoy his performance. I hope he sings Mahler at his next appearance in New York. Jonas Kaufmann is the most exciting Tenor in the world at this current time; no other singer can match his versatility or possesses his unmatched charisma & most important his vocal artistry!

  • Nicola Lefanu says:

    Has anybody heard of this double-act being done before by other singers ?

    • M2N2K says:

      Possibly in recordings, though even that is difficult; but in live performances, this is borderline insane. Bitte, Herr Kaufmann, say it ain’t so and just don’t do it! Those of us who are fans of your unique voice do not want it ruined so soon while you can still be in your prime for a few more years.

  • Stefan Treddel says:

    Judging by his singing of Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen with Barenboim here in Berlin I don’t have high expectations for Der Abschied…

  • debussyste says:

    Kaufman is some kind of Superman !

  • David Osborne says:

    Agreed, Norman. I’ve grown up with the Ferrier/Patzak version and this must lose something without that contrast, regardless of the great singer that JK undoubtedly is. By the way, to the commenter who suggested that the rest of the cycle is merely an intro to ‘Der Abschied’, that would be my least favourite of the songs. Drinking Song of the Earth’s Sorrow is my favourite of all Mahler. Isn’t it great how we can all see things so differently? (I’m being serious)!

    • Olassus says:

      My point was that you need a “brain” in the mezzo part (whereas you can get by with mere “singing” from the tenor) and that Mahler makes this most obvious in his extending (distending) of Der Abschied, to the extent of damaging his structure. All the great recordings of the piece have an engaging and deeply expressive mezzo (or of course baritone): Ferrier, DFD, Ludwig, Fassbaender. We will hear how JK does, hoping that your favorite movement doesn’t impair him for all that follows.

  • liloloperaluv says:

    In the interview for “Musikfreunde” Kaufmann speaks of being jealous of the baritones/mezzos he heard. He loves this music and I think he deeply wants to sing “Der Abschied”. It is his “desert island” recording (also mine). He has an amazing palette of vocal colors as well as the needed range. Were there any singers with similar abilities in Mahler’s time?
    When Das Lied was composed, there were clear divisions between “his” and “her” songs. Mahler did not hear Lehman or Ludwig sing Winterreise. Here Kaufmann is again an iconoclast. He sings the Wesendonck Lieder and will sing Vier letze lieder next February at the Barbican.
    I hope the critics give his interpretation of the music a fair hearing. I also hope Sony is recording these performances. I have a ticket for Paris and plan on getting one for Vienna. Go Herr Kaufmann!

  • Brian B says:

    Why, surely Placido Domingo should sing the baritone/mezzo songs.

  • John says:

    Doubtless, Mr. Kaufmann has attempted this in studio and had coaching. He strikes me as an intelligent and serious singer. I hope that it will be recorded, and if he’s successful, it will be yet another way to hear this great masterpiece.