Zum Liederabend am 8. Februar 1965 in London

The Times, London, 10. Februar 1965

An Evening of Brahms by Two Masters of the Art of Lieder

From Our Music Critic

A major song-cycle, material for a whole programme, by a major composer is irresistible to a venturesome singer, even if it is not a popular masterpiece. Mr. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau does not by now need to fear that his recital audience may desert him; he and Mr. Gerald Moore faced a comfortably filled Festival Hall on Monday when their programme was devoted to Brahms’s 15 Romances from Tieck’s Die schöne Magelone.

They are unusually extended songs, rich in their expressive demands on both partners, and abounding in musical invention characteristic of the heavyweight experimenting Brahms in the period that reached its climax, a little later, in the first symphony. Their length is a hazard to the average vocal recitalist, but not to these peers of the realm of Lieder, who revelled in the appeal to all their artistic resources. The tenth song, "Verzweiflung", is a whirlpool of notes for the pianist, but Mr. Moore plunged boldly in and brought back, like Schiller’s diver, the glorious prize – the musical content – intact, though like the same champion he had to swim to do so. Brahms’s vocal compass is extensive, and some of Mr. Fischer-Dieskau’s low tones sounded fuzzy, but he made sure that lucid enunciation gave them substance.

In the more familiar songs, "Ruhe, Süssliebchen", "Wie froh und frisch" and the glorious finale "Treue Liebe dauert lange", their partnership was superbly satisfying; but we also remember with special delight the hard, incisive colouring and rockfirm rhythm that they brought to the first song, "Keinen hat es noch gereut", and Mr. Moore’s sensitively shaped phrases in the hero’s farewell to his lute – does the piano accompaniment here not look forward to that in the Adagio of the second piano concerto?

The shortcoming of the Magelone cycle is that the songs do not tell the whole story: the narrative in fact is what is missing. The programme-book filled in some of the gaps but much too briefly and spasmodically. Ideally we would have liked either the singer or the pianist to have interspersed the songs with a résumé of Tieck’s verse-novel (Mr. Fischer-Dieskau did this in a German recording a few years ago). Perhaps this would be an idea for one of our festivals.

Generously the partners added four more Brahms songs to the evening’s fare. It was more than the pleasure of familiarity that made their realizations of "Feldeinsamkeit" and "Wie bist du, meine Königin" (above all, the last verse) the most profoundly moving of the evening. They are more concentrated and also much greater songs.

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The Guardian, 10. Februar 1965     


Fischer-Dieskau Recital at the Royal Festival Hall


As a splendid bonus to his Covent Garden appearances in "Arabella" Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, on Monday, gave a recital at the Royal Festival Hall – a rarely heard cycle by Brahms, "Die schöne Magelone." He almost persuaded us that here was a cycle to place beside the greatest of Schumann and Schubert, though the very fact that a mere fifteen songs took a whole evening (compared with, say, the sixteen of Schumann’s comparatively brief "Dichterliebe") is evidence enough of Brahms’s pursuit of length even in this most intimate of forms.

The original inspiration was a set of poems by Ludwig Tieck, written to accompany a highly improbable romance based on a 14th century French original full of jousting Knights, ravens that steal rings from heroine’s fingers and Moors who capture heroes as slaves. Not the sort of thing at all one would have expected the heavyweight Brahms to fall for, unsentimental bachelor as he was.

But even Fischer-Dieskau had one inescapable disadvantage. His is a baritone voice, and Brahms originally wrote the songs for high voice. It is not so much that the voice part itself suffers from transposition, but that Brahms’s already heavy piano part becomes really growly even in the hands of Gerald Moore. Only in a song like "Ruhe, Süssliebchen" where the stylised bare seventh chords in syncopation might almost be by Britten, did the accompaniment really sound happy at this pitch on the keyboard.

As for the singer’s vocal health, one can report with enthusiasm. His breath control is so miraculous it continually takes one’s own breath ("Feldeinsamkeit" as an encore was specially wonderful) and he has now given up his old tendency to force his fortissimos into a grating sound. Only occasionally does an ugly stur disfigure the vocal line, and when so much is so beautiful one can readily forgive that.

Edward Greenfield


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Fischer-Dieskau gefeiert

Brahms-Lieder in London


Begeisterte Kritiken haben Londoner Zeitungen einem Liederabend gewidmet, den der deutsche Bariton Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in der Londoner "Festival-Hall" gegeben hat. Fischer-Dieskau benutzte für seine Darbietung einen der spielfreien Abende in der Aufführungsserie "Arabella" von Richard Strauss, in der der Sänger gegenwärtig sehr erfolgreich vor den Londoner Opernliebhabern debütiert. Für seinen Liederabend hatte er 15 Lieder aus dem Liederzyklus "Die schöne Magelone" von Brahms ausgewählt.

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