Zum Liederabend am 22. November 1964 in New York

New York Times, 23. November 1964  

Music: Fischer-Dieskau and Miss Schwarzkopf

They sing Hugo Wolf’s ‚Italian Songbook’

An evening of Hugo Wolf - and the "Italienisches Liederbuch," yet! Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau collaborated in a performance of the cycle last night in Carnegie Hall, with that dean of accompanists, Gerald Moore, at the piano.

Two singers are needed because quite a few of the 46 songs are specifically for male or female voices. In others, such as "Auch kleine Dinge," it makes no difference; but a man cannot sing "Wie lange schon"," which deals with a woman who wants a musician for a lover; nor can a woman sing "Ein Ständchen euch zu bringen," where the lover serenades the daughter of the house.


For the most part, the two singers last night alternated songs (making a rearrangement of the original order), though here and there one or the other might do three at a stretch.

The "Italian Songbook" is a wonderful cycle, but it also is a most intimate one, and the pre-concert worry was the size of Carnegie Hall. Could any artist, no matter how skillful, maintain intimacy in so big a space?

On the whole, Miss Schwarzkopf and Mr. Fischer-Dieskau carried it off very well - with a few reservations. Here and there, they had to put some pressure into their singing, and at those times the results sounded operatic. In such a song as "Lass sie nur gehn," the baritone poured it on, sounding for all the world like Rigoletto addressing the courtiers. It was too much for the nature of the song, and Mr. Fischer-Dieskau would not have gone in for such stentorian sounds had he been in a smaller auditorium.


But Miss Schwarzkopf and Mr. Fischer-Dieskau are experienced singers and artists, and it was amazing how, for the most part, they overcame the physical handicap of the surroundings. Both have enough pure voice to have confidence in what they are doing. They could sing an entire song pianissimo, and did; and their work was full of subtle shadings. They were, of course, operating in a segment of the repertory that they obviously love, and in which they have achieved complete rapport.

Of the two, Miss Schwarzkopf was the more interesting artist, though here the difference is relative. We are dealing, after all, with two of today’s giants of song. It so happens that neither has a particularly sensuous voice, not by the standards of some of the great lieder-singers of the past. But both do have entirely responsive voices, and both have brains and style and impeccable diction and innate musicality.

But the soprano seemed to dig a little more into the music, and she did it without archness or coyness. "Man sagt mir" went with dash and temperament; the great "Wer rief dich denn" had exactly the needed bittersweet quality, both of voice and characterization, and, indeed, there was scarcely a song in which Miss Schwarzkopf did not achieve rapport between word and vocal line.

Mr. Fischer-Dieskau, also a persuasive interpreter, nevertheless had somewhat less command of shading. He seemed to operate either at a robust or a very low level. Some of his pianissimo shadings, as at the end of "Der Mond hat eine schwere Klag’ erhoben," were of extreme beauty. And in "Dass doch gemalt" he hit the climax, at "Christ soll ein jeder werden und dich lieben," with stunning impact. It was at in-between levels that one felt a lack, felt that he could have done more over the entire dynamic range.


But it was a wonderful evening, with two fine artists giving their best. And, of course, the fine hands of Mr. Moore helped punctuate mood. He had a fine time with the postlude of "Wie lange schon," letting the audience know that the musician-lover was not much of a violinist. The audience, which occupied every seat in the house and on the stage itself, caught the point. But what happened at the postlude of "Ich habe in Penna"?

Harold C. Schonberg

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