Lieder and Lieder Singers

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Lieder and Lieder Singers

LIEDER AND LIEDER SINGERS

There has been very little discussion in this Forum of the great art form of the Lied, and of the great Lieder singers, past and present.  The sad death on Friday of the ‘King of Lieder Singers’, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, seems the perfect opportunity for starting such a thread.  So here goes. I’ll lead off with some of my earliest and most abiding experiences.

And how better to start than with DF-D.  I first heard so many of the greatest Lieder in his recordings.  First and foremost, one of the greatest of all song-cycles, and the one he was most associated with, Die Winterreise.  The music is for me inseparable from his first EMI recording, issued in 1955, from which I learned the work.  But , astonishingly, within 12 months, EMI had issued records not only DF-D, but also Souzay and Hotter in this work. All of them amongst my favourite Lieder singers of all time.

To divert for a moment, in an interesting documentary DVD about ‘The Art of the Violin’, Itzakh Perlman comments about the great violinists of the past (Heifetz, Elman, Kreisler, Menuhin etc.) as to just ‘how completely distinctively different each one sounds’.  The same can be said for these three great singers.  Beautiful, instantly recognisable voices, but also superb interpreters of Lieder. The smallest voice, the most lyrical was Souzay, Hotter, with his Wotanesque reserves of power but able to fine his voice down to perfection. Both of these singers followed from an earlier tradition of Lieder singing where line was more important than detailed observance of the text.  With DF-D all that changed.  His constant probing of the text brought so many insights that had hardly been explored before.  This approach has not been without controversy, but at his best, more than any other lieder singer, he seemed to manage to have the best of both worlds. And his voice in its prime was the most beautiful of all of them.  Finally, his incredible breath control. I can never forget the last line of Wandrers Nachtlied (Warte nur, warte nur,  balde ruhest du auch), all in one perfectly controlled arch, and in one breath.

Next, the great sopranos.  For me those who opened my eyes were opened by two superb singers, Irmgard Seefried and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. I was lucky to attend Lieder recitals by both of them several times.  It’s a great over-simplification but also true that I always came away from a Seefried recital thinking of the music, and from Schwarzkopf, exhilarated by Schwarzkopf.  But both were supreme Lieder singers; the latter, like DF-D much more occupied with the detail of the text, Seefried with a wonderful line on which the words seemed to float effortlessly.

DF-D recorded Hugo Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch both with Schwarzkopf and with Seefried (I’m thinking of their live recording from Salzburg on Orfeo). Both of these are amongst the treasures of my CD collection. As one example amongst so many of his sensitivity as a Lieder singer: with Schwarzkopf he is ‘hand-in-glove’ with her in his analytically detailed treatment of the text.  With Seefried he adapts to her more straightforward style, without at all losing his own personality. 

Well, I could go on forever on this subject, but better to stop and see if there is anyone wanting to follow up on this subject. Since this is a Gramophone Forum, it seems appropriate to mention how, over many years, I (and I believe we all) have benefitted from the wise counsel first of Alec Robertson, more recently Alan Blyth and John Steane, incomparable guides to Lieder and Lieder singing each of them. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Lieder and Lieder Singers

Great topic for a most interesting future thread, Chris.

Since I am in the middle of various activities for the family and, while I cannot disagree with anything you mentioned in your introduction, I wish to add the names of Elly Ameling and Victoria de los Angeles. Two voices that marked my musical life in the field of Lied/Song/Chanson. From the male voices, the few times Talvela and Kurt Moll touched the Lieder, they were pure gold. From the more modern voices, I loved the CDs of Margaret Price, Von Otter and Te Kanawa, three truly great voices who gave the pure beauty of the Art of Singing.

That's all for the moment,

Best wishes,

Parla

 

RE: Lieder and Lieder Singers

This is possibly the art form which is closest to my heart. I find the combination of expression of emotion through poetry and music in the most intimate of settings  endlessly appealing.

Fi-Di, Schwarzkopf and Seefried spring to mind before anybody else. I suppose that they refined this artform and gave it meaning to a new generation. I agree with Chris's general assessment of these 3 giants, and though in particular Schwarzkopf and Fischer-Dieskau have been critisized for their approach we must bow to their artistic engagement, which never serves the music less than 100%.

Despite these artists increased focus on the word and the exploration of the depth of the poetry,  I think it is fair to say that they by their extraordinary artistry always managed to serve the music. The style was always the opposite to 'operatic', never hectoring, the sence of the creation of the arch of the music sustained through an unfailing application of legato.

As an aside, I have Hans Hotter's 3 'official' Winterreise recordings (are there more?), the first with Raucheisen, until recently only as a download, always my favourite version (if you have to pick one), the first lied 'Gute Nacht' more huntingly sung than with any competitor. Regrettably, on the CD version DG has replaced 'Gute Nacht' with a recording of one year later, much less compelling, almost subdued. Does anybody know where to go to get all of the original 1942 cycle (on CD)?

Another Lieder singer of the post war era worth mentioning is Aksel Schiotz, with a style more straightforward, less conscious of conveying the poetry of the Lied, a bit in the Seefried mode. His 'Schone Mullerin' (issued on Danacord in a lavish edition) is a treasured  item, as is his Dichterliebe. So sad, that this singer's career was cut short.

Juliuz Patzak is also worth mentioning, I only know his Schone Mullerin, a bit old-fashioned, often woefully off the beat (feature which would disqualify him by the authenticists), but 100% within the idiom, and a beautiful voice to add.

RE: Lieder and Lieder Singers

Hi HMV, Great to hear there is another Lieder-lover in the Forum. I was particularly interested in your comments on Hotter. I too have all three of his commercial recordings, and like you I love all three of them.  I think my favourite is the last one, with Erik Werba.  It is the darkest of the three.  The early one with Raucheisen has been issued on quite a few labels.  The one I know is on Preiser.  Nothing is mentioned about the source of 'Gute Nacht' and I had not realised there was an alternative version on the DGG issue.

I agree with you too about Aksel Schiotz. More recently Peter Schreier has made fine recordings of many of the major songs and song cycles of Schubert, Schumann and Wolf. In some ways similar to Schiotz's straightforward style.

What do you think about the Pears/Britten recordings? I used to like these rather more than I do now, though Britten's piano accompaniments are revelatory.

Parla, I agree with you about Elly Ameling (and since you mention chanson, there is a fine set of all Faure's songs, together with Gerard Souzay, available very cheaply on Brilliant. Also, as you say, a much undervalued Lieder singer is Margaret Price - some fine Schumann on Hyperion.  I have not heard either Talvela or Moll singing Lieder, but I notice that the reviews of their CD recitals are enthusiastic: something else I have to hear. [The bad thing about all these threads is their effect on the bank account].

And Victoria de los Angeles! What a lovely singer.  Not many Lieder in her repertoire but a few songs of Schubert and Brahms full of (her) character. Another great singer I feel privileged to have heard in recital.

One more thing, just before DF-D's death was announced, another great Lieder singer announced his retirement - Thomas Quasthoff. I believe he studied with Fischer-Dieskau too. Another loss to the recital room.

 

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Lieder and Lieder Singers

Another lieder singer I almost adore for her incredibly fine voice, superb style and serious consistency is Brigitte Fassbaender. Whatever she has done is precious to me, even her umbelievably bold projects on the most male lieder cycles of Schubert. Superb artistry and great musicianship.

Peter Schreier, of course, is the Tenor lieder par excellence. Whatever I have from him is also precious to me. His Schumann, in particular, is to the point, even up to the letter of the Lieder.

I have the complet set of Faure as well as the Hyperion project on Faure, which is the modern very good version of these most beautiful Chansons.

Pears/Britten work well in Britten songs mostly. Not in other repertory.

I have seen Quasthoff live in Berlin. A very exciting (and beautiful) voice, but the man couldn't sing for too long (quite a few health limitations). However, he was magnificent in some jazz songs and improvisations (his Stardust, My funny Valentine and Summertime were unforgettable).

I'll come back with some more comments in good time.

Parla

RE: Lieder and Lieder Singers

parla wrote:

I have seen Quasthoff live in Berlin. A very exciting (and beautiful) voice, but the man couldn't sing for too long (quite a few health limitations). However, he was magnificent in some jazz songs and improvisations (his Stardust, My funny Valentine and Summertime were unforgettable).

Hi Parla,

Your comments reminded me of a concert that I heard of him over the net. It was, I believe, one from Wigmore Hall. I remember being amazed by his scatting of one jazz song....all of the strange and amazing sounds that he could make! LOL Incredible!

Best, P.

RE: Lieder and Lieder Singers

We should not forget the brilliant contribution of some British singers, like Janet Baker, John Shirley-Quirk and Felicity Lott. They all have some extensive and truly solid discography worth of repeated lstening.

From the American side, Susan Graham has some fine recordings in Lieder, Songs or Chansons.

Parla

RE: Lieder and Lieder Singers

Some recent discussion of historic recordings of singers in another thread reminded me of the pre-war Hugo Wolf Society recordings, masterminded by Walter Legge. A few years ago EMI assembled in a 5CD box the complete recordings, beautifully presented with two booklets (one containing the texts, the other the biographical information). I never saw any announcement of its release, nor any review, but came across it by chance on Amazon while looking for something else.  Has anyone else come across this wonderful set? Singers such as, Gerhardt, Rethberg, Lemnitz, Husch, Erb, Roswaenge, Schorr and McCormack, excellently transferred. Also the complete HMV Wolf recordings of DFD, again excellently presented - and again with no publicity, though it did get a strong recommendation from (wait for it Uber) the BBC.

Wonderful performances (almost) all of them, and of a much neglected composer of superb Lieder.

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Lieder and Lieder Singers

I have that Wolf set, which I acquired shortly after it came out in the mid-1990s. It was reviewed in Gramophone at the time either by Alan Blyth or JBS, which is how I knew about it, though I can't find the review in the archive. Amongst the several singers I haven't come across anywhere else, I particularly like Gerhard Husch. Perhaps unfortunately the set begins with a lengthy recital by Elena Gerhardt, who takes some getting used to. She was, shall we say, a bit on the mature side at the time.

RE: Lieder and Lieder Singers

Thanks for that Guillaume. I can't find it in the Archive either.  You're quite right about Gerhardt: pity, she has some of my favourite songs as well.  She was not so old at the time (48). Extraordinary to think she was only 23 years younger than Wolf himself, he would have been 71 at the time of her recordings.  Yes, Gerhard Huesch is superb - and Herbert Janssen.

Anyway good to hear that someone else has the set!

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Lieder and Lieder Singers

Hello to everybody,
does anybody in this forum remember Barry McDaniel?
Born 1930 in Lyndon, Kansas, living in Germany since 1953, member of the Deutsche Oper Berlin from 1962 to 1999.
One of the great Lied performers in Germany, but always in the shadow of Fischer-Dieskau and Hermann Prey.
He gave many guest appearances in Britain in the 1960s and 1970s, and he worked extensively for the BBC from 1960 to 1974. Remember: in 1960 the BBC did not want any German singers on air, not even Fischer-Dieskau. Barry McDaniel was one of the few singers who could sing wonderful Brahms and Wolf without being German, and he recorded in 1972 one of the finest "Winterreise" I ever heard. He seems to have had a discreet but ardent followership in Britain, and it would interest me very much whether this is still so.
The German label "audite" published a few months ago a 2-CD album of Lied and Mélodie performances from the archives of Berlin Radio.
Barry McDaniel, now 81 years old, is still living in Berlin.

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