Schumann Dichterliebe & Kerner-Lieder
It is possible (though I don't quite see how) to love Fischer-Dieskau's records and not particularly want to play them. There must be some fault in the logic of that, you might think, but it is true of myself and may well be of others. It's a bit like reading Joseph Conrad: I admire and enjoy him when I start and yet it is a good many years since I last started. Why it should be so with Fischer-Dieskau may have to do with the very fact that his 75th birthday can be celebrated in such a way - 21 volumes of him, and those merely a selection of his recordings for one company. There is nothing like perpetual and plentiful availability for encouraging the thief of time. 'Tomorrow, 'one says. But, if so, can one really talk of 'love'? And if not, how come that each of these seven discs before me now has quickened the heart as though to greet an old love, the potency of which is attested by recognition and renewed discovery?
The very first minutes of the first track of the first disc show it to be so. An die ferne Geliebte straightway warms the heart and dispels any notion that Fischer-Dieskau's 'intellectualism' comes between the listener and the song. As it happened, I had not long before been listening to a Beethoven recital by Peter Schreier in which the cycle had been sung as it were by Florestan, a man in the extremity of emotional tension. Fischer-Dieskau is more moderate, less conceptualised, more responsive to the prevailing major tonality and no less subtle or moving therefore. Beautiful, for instance, is the way in which the saddened end of No 3 ('meine Tranen ohne Zahl') leads blissfully into No 4 ('Diese Wolken in den Hohen'). And the other delightful reassurance of this recital comes with the quality of his voice, surely at its best around this time, in the mid-1960s.
These records are also the fine product of a particularly fruitful collaboration. Jorg Demus has a touch, a refinement of tone, that distinguishes him as a pianist in his own right; but, more important here, he is a genuine, listening accompanist. In the Beethoven recital, Sehnsucht (Op 83) is a good example of the understanding between singer and pianist; in the Schumann discs, the Byron setting from Hebrew Melodies (Aus den hebraischen Gesangen) and 'Zu Augsburg steht ein hohes Haus' (
The pianist of the Wolf-Morike recital is Sviatoslav Richter, to whom fall some of the most fearsome virtuoso 'accompaniments', which, with the resounding celebrity of his name, should convince even the most singer-orientated of listeners that the two performers in such songs are of equal importance. Not that Richter necessarily plays his part better than would the regular 'accompanists': he hardly starts out on the Fussreise with the jaunty step of one who has been on this journey many times and in good company. Yet mostly the partnership is genuine and sometimes inspired, as in In der Fruhe and Im Fruhling, where Fischer-Dieskau communicates so eloquently that the yearning hardly needs words to express it, and where Richter's musing interlude seems to carry its own text.
Out of the seven discs, however, this would not be first choice. I'd come back to the two Schumanns, particularly to the Heine Liederkreis (463 506-2GFD), each song bringing a special delight (as the dream creeps into the heart in No 3, or the carpenter in the background of No 4 hammers home the coffin-nails). Or there is the Brahms to consider, with the Vier ernste Gesange passing all the tests, including real (not just formal) sensitivity to the meltingly beautiful change to major key in No 3. Fine, too, in similar mode, is Herbstgefuhl, and, contrastingly, the rich outcome of Alte Liebe. But if restricted to a single choice it might well be the Liszt. This brings many wonders (the breadth, smoothness and affection, for example, of