If Jonas Kaufmann were 20 years older, he would have recorded the chief tenor roles in all of Wagner’s operas in complete sets at least twice. As it is, we have to make do with highlights for now, except for Lohengrin and Die Walküre. This new disc is mostly magnificent, but had me pining for more. It has two unusual items: Lohengrin’s Narration, superbly sung, is given with an extra verse which Wagner scrapped before the first performance, and which is anti-climactic and only of curiosity value. And I have never heard all five Wesendonck Lieder sung by a man before, and splendid as Kaufmann is, I still prefer the female voice, for which they were written.
The excerpts from the other operas are all exemplary, with outstanding accompaniments under Donald Runnicles. Kaufmann may never sing Siegfried in the theatre, but the Forest Murmurs here, in an unusually extended version, makes one long to hear him in the complete role; the Tannhäuser Rome Narration even more so, a shattering account. There are occasions when Kaufmann uses his head voice excessively, with a crooning effect, but all told this is a further testimony to his lonely greatness among contemporary Wagner tenors.