Jonas Kaufmann
Christmas is coming: Jonas Kaufmann © Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

Just as the song of the cuckoo announces the arrival of spring, so a recital disc from Jonas Kaufmann tells us Christmas is on the way. The shop tills would not ring as loudly if there wasn’t a new recording from opera's most saleable tenor.

In a change of tack, Kaufmann's main offering this year is not opera, but a recital of mostly favourite German Lieder. This is not a new area for him by any means, but it might become a rarer event as he moves into the heaviest operatic roles.

Early on, Kaufmann said that he found singing Lieder difficult until he realised that they simply had to be sung naturally, without artifice. That approach underlines much of what he does here, voicing the beautiful poem of Strauss's “Allerseelen” with an unforced poetry and telling the little tale of Schubert's “Die Forelle” with an easy smile, nicely accompanied by Helmut Deutsch's rippling waters at the piano.

Album cover of ‘Selige Stunde’ by Jonas Kaufmann

The downside is that the voice does not move as fluently as it did. Perhaps those Verdi and Wagner operas are already taking their toll, as there are rough edges where Kaufmann's tenor strives to engage with grace and beauty on a small scale.

The programme is planned, and performed, as a gradual withdrawal into the most intimate world of song. It ends with Schumann's silvery “Mondnacht”, Brahms's once overfamiliar “Wiegenlied”, Wolf's heartfelt “Verborgenheit”, and finally floats off into the ether with Mahler's “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen”, a closing vision of eternal peace. 

★★★☆☆

Selige Stunde’ is released by Sony Classical

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