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Selige Stunde
Jonas Kaufmann (tenor), Helmut Deutsch (piano)
rec. 16-19 April 2020 in Munich
Sung texts with English translations enclosed
SONY 19439783262 [70:14]

A quick glance at the track-list may give the impression that here is another collection of two dozen popular art songs – by all means sung by one of the operatic superstars of today, who hasn’t been too frequently heard in this repertoire on discs, and that in itself is a welcome treat. At closer scrutiny we also discover that among the lollipops are sprinkled a few rarities, which makes the disc worthwhile also for those who thought they already had everything. A further asset is the assured singing of Jonas Kaufmann. Considering that he during the last decade or so has invariably tackled the toughest roles like Wagner’s heavy-weight heroes and Verdi’s Otello, he has miraculously preserved the lyrical qualities of his voice and can still at 50 sing a beautiful pianissimo and soft legato phrases, as in Schumann’s Mondnacht (tr. 23) or deliver Brahms’s Da unten im Tale (tr. 17) simply and naturally. At the same time he can’t resist the temptation to let loose his magnificent heldentenor in a glorious Zueignung (tr. 11) by Richard Strauss – glorious but still tasteful. Of course most of these songs have been recorded innumerable times by the cream of lieder-singers during more than a century, and every collector has her/his longstanding favourites, which are hard to challenge, even for Kaufmann. But all these songs can stand alternative readings and by and large I have nothing but praise for what he is doing. Of course no recording of Mahler’s Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (tr. 27) can, to my mind, surpass Janet Baker’s more than 50-year-old versions with Barbirolli, but in its own right Kaufmann’s version is fully valid. And that goes, as I hinted at above, for the rest of the songs as well.

The rarities are worth a paragraph of their own. Friedrich Silcher was in his time a pioneer for folk music inspired songs and many of them reached great popularity – not least through his many published song collections, where he mixed genuine folk songs with his own compositions. Ännchen von Tharau was one of his greatest hits, and this sweet and beautiful song is a valuable reminder of a once well-known composer. Of Carl Bohm The Oxford Companion to Music says that he was "a German composer of great fecundity and the highest salability... He occupied an important position in the musical commonwealth inasmuch as his publisher, Simrock, declared that the profits on his compositions provided the capital for the publication of those of Brahms." He composed in many genres, not least chamber music, but his popularity rested most of all on his songs – in a lighter vein than for instance Brahms’, but Still wie die Nacht (tr. 10) is both beautiful and moving and Jonas Kaufmann wrings every drop of feeling out of it. Alexander Zemlinsky, Arnold Schönberg’s brother-in-law and also his teacher, is a better-known quantity and his songs appear now and then on recital discs, but he is hardly established in the same way as the great Austro-German lied composers of the 19th century. His Selige Stunde (tr. 12) is however well worth a listen and it also lends its name to the title of this collection. Chopin’s In mir klingt ein Lied (tr. 13) is of course the well-known Étude op. 10/3 which Alois Melichar arranged for voice and piano and Ernst Marischka provided a suitable text for it. Melichar was primarily a film music composer for more than twenty years. The song is as sweet and lovely as the original piano piece and will no doubt satisfy listeners with a sweet tooth. I must admit that I am one of those.

The recording came into being in Munich in the midst of April this year when cultural life had come to a standstill due to the Corona virus. No recording studios were available, so the programme was recorded privately in domestic conditions. It seems that Jonas Kaufmann and his old friend since almost thirty years, Helmut Deutsch, found a relaxed and inspiring atmosphere and there is a definite sense of feel-good about the whole project. The two friends know each other inside-out and the interplay is seamless. I have already returned several times to the disc and am now looking forward to the next instalment in their little series of Corona recordings.

Göran Forsling

Franz SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828)
1. Der Musensohn D 764 [2:10]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770 – 1827)
2. Adelaide Op. 46 [5:59]
3. Zärtliche Liebe WoO 123 [1:39]
Friedrich SILCHER (1789 – 1860)
4. Ännchen von Tharau [3:19]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809 – 1847)
5. Auf Flügeln des Gesanges Op. 34/2 [2:45]
Edward GRIEG (1843 – 1907)
6. Ich liebe dich [2:28]
Franz LISZT (1811 – 1886)
7. Es muss ein Wunderbares sein S 314 [1:36]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810 – 1856)
8. Widmung Op. 25/1 [2:07]
9. Der Jüngling an der Quelle D 300 [2:06]
Carl BOHM (1844 – 1920)
10. Still wie die Nacht [2:47]
Richard STRAUSS (1864 – 1949)
11. Zueignung Op. 10/1 [1:45]
Alexander ZEMLINSKY (1871 – 1942)
12. Selige Stunde Op. 10/2 [2:02]
Frédéric CHOPIN (1810 – 1849)
Arr. Alois MELICHAR (1896 – 1976)
13. In mir klingt ein Lied [2:03]
Hugo WOLF (1860 – 1903)
14. Verschwiegene Liebe [2:16]
Antonín DVOŘÁK (1841 – 1904)
15. Als die alte Mutter Op. 55/4 [2:10]
16. Allelseelen Op. 10/8 [2:53]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833 – 1897)
17. Da unten im Tale WoO 33/6 [1:48]
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840 – 1893)
18. Nur wer die Sehnsucht kennt [2:56]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791)
19. Das Veilchen K 476 [2:29]
20. Sehnsucht nach dem Frühling K 596 [1:53]
21. Gruß Op. 19/5 [1:24]
21. Die Forelle D 550 [2:15]
22. Mondnacht Op. 39/5 [4:20]
Johannes BRAHMS
23. Wiegenlied Op. 49/4 [1:52]
25. Wandrers Nachtlied II D 768 [2:00]
26. Verborgenheit [2:40]
Gustav MAHLER (1860 – 1911)
27. Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen [6:32]

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