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You Mean the World to Me
Jonas Kaufmann (tenor)
with Julia Kleiter (soprano)
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Jochen Rieder
rec. 15–22 January 2014, Rundfunk-Zentrum, Nalepastrasse, Berlin
Song texts with English translations included in booklet
Full track details at end of review
SONY CLASSICAL 88843 087712 [65:14]

For this Sony Classics album tenor Jonas Kaufmann has handpicked a charming collection of light music songs overflowing with glorious melodies. The essay ‘Dream Factory Berlin’ in the accompanying booklet explains that the seeds for this release were sewn at a spectacular outdoor Waldbühne concert in Berlin in 2011. Kaufmann drew on German operetta and such was its success that it was felt that this music should be included on main recital programmes rather than used merely as encores. In these predominantly sweet-toothed songs it says a lot for Kaufmann’s artistry that he manages to keep the whole album palatable, treating every song with the utmost conviction.

These are the songs made famous by the tenor stars of Berlin’s celebrated heyday in the decade around 1925 to 1935: the likes of Jan Kiepura, Joseph Schmidt and most famous of all Austrian tenor Richard Tauber who also composed one of the operettas used on this album. The collection is taken mainly from operetta and the silver screen by 11 famous composers from Franz Lehár and Korngold to lesser known figures such as Hans May and Ralph Benatzky. Most are performed in German, six are in English which no doubt widens the international appeal and there's one from the Lehár's Das Land des Lächelns which is sung both in English and French. Musicologist Thomas Voigt has searched out the original orchestrations. Otherwise Andreas N. Tarkmann has created arrangements in the style of the period much in the manner that John Wilson has restored arrangements for music from the silver screen.
The enduringly popular You are my heart’s delight is imbued with the dream-like escapism of Lehár’s The Land of Smiles. Kaufmann delivers those tear-jerking high notes so well. My little nest of heavenly blue from Frasquita offers up one of those captivating chocolate-box melodies that Lehár was so adept at writing. With the syrupy Du bist die Welt für mich from Tauber’s Der singende Traum Kaufmann maintains his integrity and finds just the right amount of sentimentality. There are shades of Kurt Weill rhythms in It would be wonderful indeed from Ralph Benatzky’s The White Horse Inn with the crooning Kaufmann splendidly engaged. The Hans May composition My song goes round the world is a fine example of Kaufmann darkening his tone within the baritonal lower register. Soprano Julia Kleiter joins Kaufmann for three songs. Their partnership bears glorious fruit with a stunningly moving rendition of Korngold’s Glück, das mir verblieb from Die Tote Stadt. Despite knowing this repertoire inside out the musicians of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin clearly relish every second and can be heard having a ball. Conductor Jochen Rieder whose career was grounded in German state theatres takes this music seriously resisting any temptation to become over all schmaltzy.

This album is superbly presented. In the booklet there is an excellent essay ‘Dream Factory Berlin’ by Thomas Voigt and more good news is that sung texts are provided with German/English translations while the sound quality is as good as it gets.

Performed with unerring integrity this is a most captivating album of approachable and eminently melodic music. It shows the lighter side of Jonas Kaufmann and will surely win him new admirers.

Michael Cookson

Previous review: Göran Forsling

Track listing:
Franz LEHÁR (1870 – 1948)
1. Girls were made to love and kiss [3:26]
The Land of Smiles:
2. You are my heart’s delight [3:51]
Richard TAUBER (1891 – 1948]
Der singende Traum:
3. Du bist die Welt für mich [3:52]
4. My little nest of heavenly blue [3:37]
Robert STOLZ (1880 – 1975)
5. Im Traum hast du mir alles erlaubt [3:07]
Emmerich KÁLMÁN (1882 – 1953)
Gräfin Mariza:
6. Grüss mir mein Wien [5:27]
Werner Richard HEYMANN (1896 – 1961)
Ein blonder Traum:
7. Irgendwo auf der Welt [2:57]
Hans MAY (1886 – 1958)
8. My song goes round the world [2:47]
9. Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert! [3:25]
Paul ABRAHAM (1892 – 1960)
Viktoria und ihr Husar:
10. Reich mir zum Abschied noch einmal die Hände [4:21]
Ralph BENATZKY (1884 – 1957)
The White Horse Inn:
11. It would be wonderful indeed [3:04]
Die Blume von Hawaii:
12. Diwanpüppchen [4:07]
Robert STOLZ
Das Lied ist aus:
13. Don’t ask me why [3:57]
Mischa SPOLIANSKY (1898 – 1985)
Das Lied einer Nacht:
14. Heute Nacht oder nie [3:10]
Eduard KÜNNEKE (1885 – 1953)
Die grosse Sünderin:
15. Das Lied vom Leben des Schrenk [4:26]
Erich Wolfgang KORNGOLD (1897 – 1957)
Die Tote Stadt:
16. Glück, das mir verblieb [6:13]
Das Land des Lächelns:
17. Je t’ai donné mon choeur [4:03]


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