Zum Liederabend am 1. September 1972 in Edinburgh

     The Times, London, 4. September 1972     

Edinburgh weekend full of good things

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with Daniel Barenboim gave a richly satisfying recital of songs by Hugo Wolf on Friday evening.


On the previos evening Fischer-Dieskau and Barenboim devoted their recital to Hugo Wolf’s setting of Mörike, a large corpus of songs greatly varied in mood and dimensions and of such marvellous quality that they were able to build a generous programme and still go on exploring the riches of the volume in their five encores. Fischer-Dieskau has sung them frequently, of course, and his interpretations, particularly of the comic settings, could easily lose spontaneity. His partnership with Barenboim, a pianist who responds positively and ideosyncratically to whatever he plays, seemed to spur Fischer-Dieskau too, refreshing his views not only of the humorous detail in "Storchenbotschaft" but of the wistful and philosophical and amorous and dramatic songs as well.

For all of these Barenboim had some particular illumination to bring to the piano part, a fresh landscape, as it were, for the characters impersonated by the singer. Barenboim’s weakness for expressive rubato did not appear to tax his partner but did sometimes put a strain on the music. The central piano solo of "Im Frühling" almost came to a halt, and at times Wolf began to sound strangely like Albeniz. It is not an impossible resemblance: the slowing-down was poetically motivated; and in any case it must be tempting to exaggerate musical points in a drawing-room song when one is performing in the huge expanse of the Usher Hall. The authenticity of the readings could be questioned along these lines, but the recital as a whole proved immensely stimulating.

William Mann



     The Scotsman, 2. September 1972     

Distinguished recital by Fischer-Dieskau

Fischer-Dieskau / Barenboim: Usher Hall


The success of a song recital depends not only on how well it is performed but on how well it is compiled. In recent years Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has specialised in the art of the one-composer programme – Schubert at the 1968 Edinburgh Festival, Beethoven in 1970, and last night, Hugo Wolf.

This time moreover it was a one-poet programme, based on 20 of the 53 poems by Mörike which Wolf set to music at lightning speed when he was 28 years old. It was, as expected, an extremely distinguished recital, the essence of each song being strongly caught and characterised by the singer, and by his very admirable (though not invariably quite sufficiently needle-sharp) accompanist, Daniel Barenboim.

Moods contrasted

They began their programme with "Der Genesene an die Hoffnung," the first song in the first of Wolf’s five volumes of Mörike lieder, and ended with "Abschied," the last song in volume five. In between, they darted back and forth, not at random, but in such a way that moods were carefully built up and contrasted. The emotional centre of the evening was reached in the big group of songs which began the second half of the recital and included the aching Peregrina settings and "Lebe wohl."

Then, having screwed up the tension, they began to unwind in a final group which was devoted to the mordantly witty side of the poet and composer, culminating in the hilarity of "Abschied" – the song about the critic who gets kicked downstairs (all critics should have it engraved on their bed-heads as a guard against conceit).

This was the official and brilliant end of the recital, but "Verborgenheit" followed as an encore, striking again a more serious note, and doubtless there were other encores after that – for Mr. Fischer-Dieskau is a generous singer, and one who can establish a strong and intimate rapport with his audience even in a hall as large as the Usher.

Not that the Usher is really a hall for Wolf, and there were moments when one felt that the singer, for all his beauty and variety of tone and the richness of his interpretative gifts, was forcing his voice. Yet there were marvellous things in the evening. The violent energy and final decay of "Der Feuerreiter" provided the evening’s first big thrill (and here, towards the end, Mr. Barenboim caught the dry, dead rattle of his music to perfection). Thereafter, each listener would find things to move and captivate him, whether in the dark, extended poignancy of the two Peregrina songs (treated here as a single, increasingly intense experience) or the high good humour of "Zur Warnung" and "Storchenbotschaft".

Conrad Wilson

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