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Jonas Kaufmann at Theatre des Champs Elysees. Photo: Henning Høholt.

PARIS: Jonas Kaufmann presented his version of Gustav Mahler s Kindertotenlieder and 6 songs by Richard Strauss at Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris Monday. March 12th. 2012. Together with Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andris Nelsons.

Review and reportagephotos by Henning Høholt

Gustav Mahler´s (1860-1911) Kindertotenlieder,  (from 1904): (Songs on the Death of Children, though more closely translated as Children’s songs about Death) is a song sycle for voice and orchestra. The words of the songs are poems by Friedrich Rückert was first on the programme. Usually the work is scored for a vocal soloist (the notes lie comfortably for a baritone or mezzosoprano), but here it was sung by a tenor. Jonas Kaufmann has a very beautiful voice with a lot of deliciouse nuances. Andris Nelsons got out of the orchestra many good nuances on al levels. However. Kindertotenlieder became boring. I was missing spirituality, some thing which could have been lifting it up to another level. It don help that the soloist and the orchestre is good in their work. furthermore Jonas Kaufmann was using scores, which keeped him concentrating a lot of reading. It was boring, I am not sure if this was because that it usually is sung by a baritone or a mezzo, and it was because it in this case was a tenor. But I choose to feel that Jonas Kaufmanns version of Kindertotenlieder will grow and be more expressiv, when he get used to it, and can drop the scores.

Jonas Kaufmann in front of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. Photo: Henning Høholt

After the break a long line of Richard Strauss (1864-1949) wonderful songs changed the atmosphaere, in this the audience got what they were coming for. this was elegant, well performed, had an enery which was good. In addition Jonas Kaufmann also seemed more at home in these songs, that he sung without scores. This was representative for the soloist and the orchestra. The Richard Strauss songs we enjoyed were: «Ruhe, meine Seele», opus 27 n° 1 – «Ich trage meine Minne», opus 32 n° 1 – «Cäcilie», opus 27 n° 2 – «Morgen», opus 27 n° 4, including a splendid violin solo by the first violinist in the orchestra. – Heimliche Aufforderung», opus 27 n° 3. In addition we got an encore also by R.Strauss.

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) Symphony no 2 (1902) ended the evening. It became EXTRAORDINARY. In Paris and in many part of the middle of Europe. Unfortunately we dont hear Sibelius often. In fact it seems like in this part of Europe, the conductors, orchestras and the audiences dosn´t know that Scandinavian/Nordic composers exist. What a pity. They are missing treasories of music. As this Sibelius 2nd. Symphony is a splendid exampel for. The orchestra and its soloists showed all its best sides in this performance.

Birmingham Symphony Orchestre. Conductor Andris Nelsons. Photo: Henning Høholt

However. I had the feeling that by a few moments Nelsons overdid it, the pizzicato opening of the third part was elegant, but after that i fell that it for a periode was going to fast, until the fanfare signals in the trumpets, after that it was splendid. But what is so fantastic with these kind of live concerts, and why the concerthouses are being filled up with audience time after time, is that the conductor has the privillege that he can form each of the pieces in his personal way, after his personall ideas. And also with this concert it was great to enjoy how mr. Andris Nelsons feel that Sibelius Symphony no 2. shall sound. Also after this the orchestra answered the large applause with an encore, a Sibelius piece for strings.

Birmingham Symphony Orchestra at Theatre des Champs Elysees. Photo: Henning Høholt

This Paris visit of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra was in the frame of  an europé tourné including concerts in Essen, Munich, Vienna and Stuttgart. Which ended up in Paris with Tristan and Isolde, concertant the evening before and as the finale this concert with Jonas Kaufmann at Theatre des Champs Elysees.

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