Zum Konzertabend am 8. Juni 1972 in Aldeburgh
The Times, London 10. Juni 1972
A Superb Recital
Fischer-Dieskau/Britten - The Maltings, Snape
Devotees of German song have often heard Benjamin Britten as piano accompanist for Peter Pears, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as singer for Gerald Moore. The partnership of Fischer-Dieskau and Britten in a song recital is a rare occasion, however, and marvellous since each is supreme in his art, and both admire one another greatly. They collaborated in a recital at Snape Maltings on Thursday night and rare was the word for it.
One half of the programme was devoted to the William Blake "Songs and Proverbs" which Britten set expressly for Fischer-Dieskau and himself to give at the 1965 Aldeburgh Festival. This is the most closely integrated of all Britten’s many works for voice and piano, and I for one cherish its richness of invention and uncanny illumination of Blake’s texts above all of them – at least when I have just heard them performed by their originators.
The performance on Thursday revived admiration on all counts: for Fischer-Dieskau’s miraculously expressive range of vocal colour, especially in high registers and in slides, and for his vivid delivery of Blake’s words – you would swear that, when he sings an English word, like "Sunflower", or "Brothels", he appreciates every connotation that it has for an English native. And then there was Britten’s animated interpretation of meaningful piano figuration – the flitting of the fly, the hubbub of the chartered streets, the doomladen chords of "A poison tree". It was a performance not quickly to be forgotten.
Doubtless we all longed for encores, but rightly the two refused to tarnish the effect with anything else. They had, anyhow, given a very substantial first half devoted to Schubert, a group more or less chronologically ordered, which stressed the particular interpretative affinities with this composer of pianist as well as singer. The highlight here was probably "Gruppe aus dem Tartarus", the agony and terror of which Fischer-Dieskau vividly lived to the utmost, while Britten gave his all to the dramatic pauses and horrific musical emphases and the terrifying affirmative major chords that thunder out for the eternity of the doomed souls’ suffering.
Fischer-Dieskau’s bel canto in "Freiwilliges Versinken", his evocation of the defiant blacksmith Prometheus forging away in a thunderstorm, and his delicate characterization, quite unmawkish,of the death-wishing orator in "An die Freunde" were very special, even to those who regularly attend his London recitals. So was Britten’s piano playing, uninhibited in volume for powerful songs, since he knows the favourable Snape acoustics and the strength of his singer’s voice, but also magically tender and on tiptoe, as it were, when poetry and music are poised on the point of a pin.
"Fischerweise" is an extremely well known Schubert song, but I heard important details in the piano part, notes as well as phrasing that never seemed so significant before. Fischer-Dieskau responded every time to what Britten showed him and us; doubtless the reaction worked contrariwise. At any rate it was an evening of unforgettable interpretative pioneering, two great musical minds inspiring one another all the time. Microphones were visible. I hope for records as well as radio
The Guardian, London, 10. Juni 1972
Blake song cycle
It is just seven years since Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau made his first visit to the Aldeburgh Festival. In Jubilee Hall accompanied by the composer he then gave the world premiere of the darkest, most menacing of Britten’s song-cycles, the songs and proverbs of William Blake. Where in the War Requiem the German baritone’s voice inspired Britten to some of his most tender, compassionate music, the Blake cycle, similiarly inspired, is little comfort. Blake’s tensions are what this cycle reflects - the poet’s pitying anger over the little black chimney sweeper, his bitterness over lost friendship in "The Poison Tree," the soft-padding menace of "The Tyger."
Here at the Maltings we had the dedicatee and the original interpreter returning to give his uniquely intense account of Britten’s difficult work. For all its size compared with Jubilee Hall, the Maltings is so intimate in sound that Fischer-Dieskau seemed to be addressing us individually.
He sang from the score (wise precaution) but the expression consistently gave the feeling of spontaneity, almost of improvisation, just as the composer’s accompaniment did. That quality of seeming to re-create music, shared by singer and pianist, is something that applies not merely to their performances of Britten’s songs. In ten Schubert songs, arranged chronologically but moving from the depths of darkness to the carefree brilliance of "Fischerweise," they created exactly the same illusion.
Plainly the partnership was a challenge to both of them, with the upward search for Schubert’s sunshine bringing not a lightening of tension but an intensivication. Rarely can the penultimate song, "Der Wanderer an den Mond" so completely have transcended the cosy gemütlich implications of the tripping accompaniment, seeming on this occasion to represent an emotional bridge between the greatness of "Die Schöne Müllerin" on the one hand and "Winterreise" on the other.
East Anglian Daily Times, 10. Juni 1972
Outstanding song recital
As the years come and go the allegiance of Aldeburgh Festival to the vocal art remains as firm as e v e r , with Schubert as focus of attention.
So at the Fischer-Dieskau and Britten song recital at the Maltings on Thursday evening, again a wide selection of Schubert songs had been chosen, this time several of the relatively unknown pieces in preference to one of the better-known song cycles.
Most of these, such as "Gruppe aus dem Tartarus," "Prometheus" and "Heliopolis" are based on classic subjects, and in style of composition treated as such, but many of the other lyrics selected also rise to great dramatic heights, such as "Der Strom" which opened the recital and gave singer and pianist immediate opportunities to rise to their full powers of interpretation.
Contrasting lyrical items, such as the final "Fischerweise" fell like gentle dew from heaven and completed impressions of delight in such degree of human accomplishment.
After the interval, the baritone sang a selection from Blake’s "Songs and Proverbs" set to music by Benjamin Britten and dedicated to the singer. Seven years ago, when this song cycle was first heard at the festival, the impression was gained that, admirable as are Britten’s settings, Blake’s imagery and special mysticism are a serius problem to understanding and effect, an impression which can be total only when the audience are convinced Blake devotees.
Apparentliy those present at the Maltings on Thursday were all in that category, as the applause was more than tumultuous. But perhaps this mostly went to singer and pianist for a truly outstanding performance.