The Austrians call it Schlager Musik a term for which there is no good translation other than “hit” music. I call it light classical music and leave it at that.
Jonas Kaufmann is running out of repertory after having completed the entire Wagner Heldentenor canon and then moved on to Puccini, Verdi, Mahler, et al. His is basically a hefty instrument with a clarion top, a baritone timbre in the middle voice, and, heaven knows, plenty of power, so that to tackle the rep featured in the SONY CD WIEN the German tenor has had to pull way back on the stentorian and lay on thickly the saccharine sound and schmaltzy delivery that back in the day made maidens swoon to the sound of that quintessential operetta tenor, the great Richard Tauber.
But that is like asking an ATV to drive in the cobblestoned alleyways of Alte Wien. From me Herr Kaufmann gets an E for effort if not for effortlessness: his handling of the ditties of Stolz, Sieczynsky, May, Johann Strauss, Lehar, Kalman, Zeller, Weinberger, Leopoldi, Benatzky, Kreuder, and Kreisler –all toll nineteen in this album – is vocally faultless at the mezzo-forte to forte levels. But when he goes for a mezza-voce top note that then turns into a breathy croon and good vocalism vanishes. And there are lots of top notes in this album: either the multi-decibel kind or the Dean Martin/Perry Como kind.
Elsewhere Kauffman phrases elegantly, but no matter how noble his intentions the outcome is not what some of us weaned on the recorded sounds of Peter Anders, Joseph Schmidt, Rudolf Schock, Fritz Wunderlich and, yes, Richard Tauber have come to expect from an interpreter of this charming and unabashedly sentimental music. This is a Siegfried in white tie and tails and decidedly not a good fit.
The accompaniment by the Vienna Philharmonic, no less, is deluxe, the conductor, Adam Fischer a moonlighting heavyweight, the brief participation of Rachel-Willis-Sorenson quite pretty, the accompanying booklet complete, the engineering professional, the singing good, but… lighten up Jonas.
*** E for EFFORT
Rafael de Acha http://www.rafaelmusicnotes.com