COMPOSERS: Beethoven & Schubert
ALBUM TITLE: Schubert: Winterreise
CATALOGUE NO: 88883795632
If you expect something of a Winterreise drama from this dramatic tenor, you might be a little surprised. Jonas Kaufmann is a grey, spectral figure in a white-on-white landscape. From the unusually gentle, hushed footfall of Helmut Deutsch’s piano opening, to the final flicker of a spent life-force in ‘Der Leiermann’, this is one of the most deep-frozen, numb Winter Journeys on disc.
It’s also one of the most beautifully sculpted and articulated. Within the slow tempos, bleached colours and deep resignation of this reading, there are telling details which are there to be searched out: the way Deutsch complements Kaufmann’s responses with tiny nuances of rhythm and metre, touching hidden pain points (listen to ‘Wasserflut’); the fragile hypersensitivity expressed within the wanderer’s identification with the falling leaves of ‘Letzte Hoffnung’; the vulnerability he reveals in his discourse with the crow; the hallucinatory quality of the final two songs. Anger is only rarely glimpsed. It’s as though, Hamlet-like, this protagonist has to make a huge effort to will himself to action at all.
An unexpected Winterreise, then, and one which reveals its treasure only slowly, and on repeated listenings. It doesn’t move me as do recordings by two other great tenors, Werner Güra and Christoph Prégardien – but it fascinates me, as an immaculately achieved intellectual exercise and musical artifact.