Jonas Kaufmann’s vanity Lied: More questions than answers

First reviews of the tenor singing both parts of Das Lied von der Erde with the Vienna Philharmonic are decidedly mixed. Gustav Mahler specified a tenor for three songs and an alto or baritone for the other three. Kaufmann decided to do the lot himself. Substitute Jonathan Nott conducted.

Kaufmann had no problem with the top notes. But, according to some reports, he transposed the closing ‘ewig, ewig’ one octave upwards.

Other questions: Could one singer capture the entire gamut of emotions? Is the dramatic intensity sustained? Why did Kaufmann decide to do it at all?

Die Presse is somewhat skeptisch. Der Standard says he was very brave.

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      • maybe short thats right, though a review is a review….I heard the performance and can follow the opinion of this this “superficial” review…..There was a lot of impact Kaufmann, WP and JN gave to the audience….lets wait for the recording to judge if this “experiment” is worth for you or not …….

        • On 23.06. is the much longer real critic. The first one was immediately after the concert. And “ewig, ewig” was not transposed!

  • He did this because as a tenor he fits the great Anna Russell observation on singers
    having resonance where their brains aught to be .
    One suspects he has come to believe he is the great tenor Jonas Kaufmann.

  • Crazy. And an insult to lesser singers like Fritz Wunderlich, Christa Ludwig, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and so on, who did it the way Mahler intended.

  • Kaufmann has also sung it in the recognised way I remenber a Berlin concert with Anne Sophie van Otter. Why be so precious about it. ? If you don’t approve you don’t need to go or listen to the eventual CD. There is no need to sneer at or insult a very fine artist

      • Found something interesting in the text (Der Abschied; last verse):
        “Er sprach, seine Stimme war umflort:
        Du, mein Freund,
        Mir war auf dieser Welt das Glück nicht hold!”
        The speech is definitely adeessed to a man (“Baritone”), not to a woman (“Mezzo”); so it is logocal, that a male singer sings those words.
        It reminds me to Winterreise, where also it is clear that a man is the central figure. Nevertheless there were always great femal singers interpreting the Schubert.

        It is said that Bruno Walter mentioned in a letter to Gustav Mahler, that one voice would fit.

        • I always thought the line read as a quotation within the poem:

          “Er sprach, seine Stimme war umflort:

          ‘Du, mein Freund,
          Mir war auf dieser Welt das Glück nicht hold!’ ”

          (etc)

          • Two male friends say good bye, one goes away, the other one remains on the old place.

          • Yes, I see your point. But I saw it as a woman reciting the whole poem, with an internal quote. A rather roundabout concept, but that compelling “Ewig, Ewig” at the end, with the feminine timbre, seemed to resonate with me, as a baritone would not. — And certainly not a tenor’s timbre. “Winterreise” is clearly for a man, as “Ich” is the center of the text. Thanks for your comments.

  • Having cut my teeth on the wondrous pair, Julius Patzak and Kathleen Ferrier, I have always thought of the voices as representing a drunken poet (tenor) and an Earth Mother (alto). The thought of one singer doing it all (pace Rossini’s factotum) somehow reminds me of Berlioz’s description of a professional claqueur

    • You are a little behind the times! He has already sung the Wesendonck Lieder on several occasions – with piano and with orchestra. I have been present at concerts in London and New York. He has even recordted them on Decca in his Wagner album. They were well received.

  • Just speaking for myself as a listener, I find it vocally monotonous when “DLvdE” is sung by two males. I won’t know how I feel about Kaufmann doing it by himself until I actually hear it. For me, the orchestral part is equally important. I will definitely be checking this out on Spotify. I so like the prospect of Nott and the V.P.O. working together.

  • HAving heard the live clips on Youtube and received the first tracks from the CD, I can only say, this man is a gem, a revelation. Exquisite singing. How can this achievement “diminish” the achievements of the great singers from before? Nonsense. He is a phenomenon and I love his performance.

  • The vocal production is as throaty as it’s guttural, with distinctive register breaks. Notes off the stave are squeezed out without any build-up and in many sequence smudged. Legato is as abundant as rainfall in Sahara. Stylistically, he’s all over the place in addition to the fact that he is channeling his inner Renee Fleming in that every word, every sentence is fussed and tweaked to the extent that any sense of spontaneity is lost. Those comparison to the legendary Jon Vickers by certain so-called critics is simply preposterous. The Canadian’s voice is naturally produced and is deployed with the greatest artistry, whereas the voice of “the most gorgeous thing on the lyric stage today” (so claimed by thousands and thousands of queens around the globe) is weirdly produced, sounding synthetic and grating.

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