Zum Liederabend am 14. Oktober 1988 in London
The Times, 17. Oktober 1988
Queen Elizabeth Hall
In Richard Strauss, the composer he chose for the third and last of his London appearances, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau found a man to match his own mood of phlegmatic amusement, ease and liberated virtuosity in being the bearer of late news, making this doubly an evening of autumn glory: there was the same long-slanting light in the songs, by a composer feeling himself at the end of a tradition, as in the singing, by a musician who must inevitably be nearing the end of his unparallelled career.
In the light of that, what was most extraordinary was the total absence of anything nostalgic in Fischer-Dieskau’s performance, anything evoking pathos or regret. Of course the voice is not at all what it was, but the technique has been wonderfully able to take account of that. He knows exactly, what he can achieve, and it is altogether remarkable in terms of phrasing, speed of response and subtlety of nuance. He also retains undimished his control, even in his self-deprecatory throwaways, or those passages where lyrical head-tone flies into falsetto. Hartmut Höll has found a style of slaty colour and engraved precision that is the perfect accompaniment for this present extraordinary state of his art.
The resolute exclusion of nostalgia means also a tight grip on irony, He can use when it suits him, as in the dialogue of "Ach weh mir", or in his neat moue for the same song’s postlude, or in the selections from the satirical Krämerspiegel with which the official programme ended. But in the four encores that followed, as in the greater part of the recital, there was no irony, only the daring of a man still supremely the master of his accomplishments.
Financial Times, 17. Oktober 1988
Finally to Richard Strauss: the third and last of Fischer-Dieskau’s recitals this season was devoted to a selection of mostly late songs.
Strauss is known by only a small part of his extensive song output (the lyrical early pieces) and it is typical of the German baritone that he should have found such a flowering of inspiration in what is generally regarded as barren land.
In the last couple of years his Elizabeth Hall recitals have become essential musical events. Fischer-Dieskau has, of course, recorded all the songs in his programmes at least once before, if not more often. But that is no reason to stay at home, for the music-making that the singer is offering us in his 60s has become still more daring and visionary, as a comparison of his Strauss Lieder on record and the performances that he gave on Saturday would show.
The programme ranged widely. Songs like the excerpts from the Op. 66 Krämerspiegel, with their brilliantly incisive verbal definition, have always been a Fischer-Dieskau speciality.
Others, like Im Spätboot or Ruhe, meine Seele, seem now to have opened the door on to a new world of ambivalent and conflicting emotions, where before a single mood had been thought sufficient.
In every case the singing stirred the imagination afresh, but in none more than the encore "Morgen". After a spellbinding introduction – the accompanist Hartmut Höll is no less creative an interpreter than his singer – Fischer-Dieskau spun this song on a mere thread of tone, expanding and contracting the vocal line with a freedom of rubato that one would have though an impossibility, had it not worked so magically: a once-in-a-lifetime performance.
Not all the songs came together like that, not all fused their elements with that degree of success; but the spontaneity and risk-taking in Fischer-Dieskau’s singing these days mean that when the songs do work, they aspire to ever greater heights. Another trio of recitals next season is a must.