Creating a good selection of arias is a bit of a Devil’s art. Making a selection work in relative terms, instead of simply being a grab-bag of favourites, has been very successful in this CD. Kaufmann has what all great tenors need, a darker tone in his lower register. Few tenors can cover the repertoire properly without this baritonal quality and Kaufmann has it in spades.
There is also a fine intelligence at work. A real plus in our pop-opera world where top Cs and triple fortes get many lesser talents over the line. Kaufmann handles the texts with the same intelligence he brings to his musicianship. Kaufmann dives into the heart of the German repertoire and the CD opens and closes with two of the most ethereally beautiful arias in opera; ‘In fernem Land’, from Lohengrin and the final scene from Parsifal.
Between these masterpieces lie scenes from Die Zauberflöte, rarer arias from Schubert’s operas Fierrabras and Alfonso und Estrella; a thrilling ‘Winterstürme’ from Die Walküre and Florestan’s agonised aria to his love, Leonora, from Fidelio. It is an intensely moving and heroic interpretation and the performance is gripping. It is worth noting that this man differentiates effectively between the arias, unlike some more popular tenors I could name.
Claudio Abbado and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra provide superb support throughout. I cannot recommend this disc too highly, it is simply marvellous.