Zum Liederabend am 26. Januar 1971 in New York


New York Times, 28. Januar 1971

Duet Delight: Janet Baker Joins Fischer-Dieskau

Their Voices Match Nuance and Flow - Barenboim Is the Lucid, Refined Accompanist

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Daniel Barenboim already have collaborated in two Carnegie Hall concerts this season. On Tuesday evening a third member was added to the little cast. Janet Baker, the British mezzo-soprano, joined the baritone in a program of vocal duets. They previously have sung - and recorded - much the same program in London, with the addition of several Purcell duets, regrettably absent from the New York program.

But one canít have everything, and what the two artists did sing was rare and welcome. Every once in a while we do get some duet singing in New York concert halls, but the literature is large and relatively unexplored. There was a day when people actually entertained themselves and their friends in their own homes, singing duets. During the entire 19th century there was a great demand for this kind of music, and nearly all the great song composers from Schubert through Brahms were happy to help fill the demand.

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The songs of Peter Cornelius were of special interest on this program. Very little of his music is heard in this country. He was a member of the Liszt circle in Weimar and achieved some fame with his comic opera "The Barber of Baghdad."

"Heimatgedenken" and "Verratene Liebe," the first two duets that Miss Baker and Mr. Fischer-Dieskau sang, were sweet, gracious and flowing, but not particularly original, stemming as they did from Schubert and Schumann. But "Ich und Du" had some bold Lisztian harmonies, and "Der beste Liebesbrief," a charming piece of fluff, prefigures Hugo Wolf in one of his lighter moments. This song is a little beauty.

The Mendelssohn songs, too, were beautiful. Mendelssohn wrote a large quantity of vocal music, most of which is ignored by present-day recitalists. Moreís the pity. Each of the six duets was a lyric gem, especially the delicate "Suleika und Hatem." And Mendelssohn did not forget about the piano in these songs. The accompaniments, some of them exceedingly difficult, are of unusual interest.

Schumann was the composer most heavily represented. One of the greatest of all song composers, he wrote a large number of vocal duets, and they have the same lyric rapture as any of his solo songs. Certainly duets such as "Er und Sie," "Wiegenlied" or "Tanzlied" rank with any vocal music he ever composed. And what a contrast they were to the more rugged, mor serious Brahms duets! Unlike some of the previous Fischer-Dieskau programs, this one was carefully arranged for maximum contrast.

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It was an evening of vocal delight. The voices of Miss Baker and Mr. Fischer-Dieskau clung lovingly together, matching each other in nuance, flow and understanding. Miss Baker, a sensitive musician, is not a heart-on-sleeve artist. She represents control and intelligence, but control and intelligence married to a most expressive vocal organ. The same characteristics apply to the baritone, and it is small wonder that they work so well together. And, as before, Mr. Barenboim was the most lucid and refined of accompanists. The huge audience that overflowed the stage loved the evening. One hopes that the applause was as much for the music as for the participants.

Harold C. Schonberg

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