I am listening to my copy of Jonas Kaufmann's new album Wagner. I am immediately reminded of how often I praise Donald Runnicles for his Wagner conducting. The combination of Runnicles and the Orchester der Deutschen Oper Berlin is beautiful and above all sensitive to the singer and this very personal interpretation he brings to the material. There is an awesome lightness of tone and texture to accompany this proclaimer of the pianissimi of Wagner. Runnicles doesn't leave out the big moments, but it must when the situation requires it be the most sweetly expressive Wagner I've ever heard.
Of course, the parts of the recording that are most familiar to me are the Wesendonck Lieder. Jonas doesn't sing anything, really, the way everyone else sings it. Right now, at this moment, he has to be the most creative musical artist in the classical world. It probably helps that he's been listening to Wagner since he was 3.
I love the sound of his voice and think I prefer him in tenor mode. Of all the Wagner I've heard him sing, I definitely prefer Lohengrin, the most truly tenor of Wagner's heroes. I am reminded of the Munich Lohengrin where Elsa tries to cover Lohengrin's mouth with her hand at the moment where he is about to say his own name. She has changed her mind, you see. It is now my favorite Wagner.
My travels to see Jonas have been consistently a treat. As usual, I digress. I'm not a particularly gifted reviewer. It is for the digressions I write. He answers my wish. He finds the music anew and recreates it in his own image. The phrases never die too soon.
Kaufmann and Runnicles together are an unqualified joy. Listen and be glad.