Jonas Kaufmann / Helmut Deutsch - Die schöne Müllerin - Wigmore Hall, 31 October 2010
Jonas Kaufmann hasn't given a London recital for five years or so, part of the reason why this was the hottest Wigmore ticket in living memory. Even many Wigmore 'Friends' were disappointed. A box office assistant told me they could have sold out ten times. The queue of hopefuls waiting for returns stretched down Wigmore Street.
Inside, the lucky ticket holders included the royal presence of the Duke of Kent. Halloween ambience was provided by Angela Gheorghiu, disguised as herself.
And all for just an hour's music. But it was so worth it.
Kaufmann's been singing Die schöne Müllerin for a long time now, and every note seems deeply embedded. He has no need for the usual theatrics. Time has given him the courage to let the music speak for itself. There was no shouting, no exaggerated sneering, no whispering or generalised emoting. Painting with the finest of brushstrokes, every note is subtly coloured. His diction is exquisite, clear yet natural, and each syllable emerged perfectly shaped and weighted.
Although of course we all came to hear Jonas Kaufmann, he has a gift usually reserved for the greatest of pianists. That's the gift of seeming to disappear from the performance, becoming a mere vessel for the composer. With Helmut Deutsch's easy, unimposing piano behind his voice, I felt I was hearing nothing but Schubert, from the source.
Although his voice has darkened considerably over the years, the effect is still young and fresh. But his lad is not the impulsive teenager of some interpretations. A certain stillness, musical and physical, added a ruminative, poetic dimension. There were no abrupt changes of mood or dynamic. The songs followed one after the other like pages in book. Even the pauses between them were calibrated to perfection. If there was one thing this recital lacked, it would be a sense of spontaneity I suppose - but is that really necessary?
Kaufmann wove his magic with the tiniest of nuances, whether in dark, covered full voice or rock-steady mezza voce or immaculately floated head voice. What recordings don't capture is the physical scale of his sound, the different ways it fills the air. The astonishing range of expressivity though is something recordings can't destroy.
The recital will be broadcast on Radio 3 at 7pm on 10 November. Unmissable.
And below Jonas sings Schubert's Der Jüngling an der Quelle, which he encored with.