Zum Konzert am 6. September 1972 in Edinburgh

The Scotsman, 7. September 1972

Sure-fire success involved sacrifice

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: Usher Hall

Not many of the Festival’s morning programmes are aimed at audiences of Usher Hall-sized proportions, but yesterday’s was obviously attractive enough to merit the shift of location. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing Bach, with members of the Berlin Philharmonic as his instrumentalists, could hardly have falled to be a sure-fire success, though in fact it was a concert that involved a degree of artistic sacrifice for the sake of enabling the maximum numer of people to hear it.

Taken on trust

The trouble lay, simply, in the size and acoustical properties of the hall, which lacked the intimacy required by the music. Fine though the instrumentalists were, their tone naturally failed to carry as well as that of the full orchestra had done the previous evening. Indeed, heard from an illplaced seat in the stalls, much of the sound seemed to evaporate into the hall’s upper reaches, and such details as the viola line in Bach’s 152nd cantata – singled out for praise by the writer of the programme-note – had to be taken on trust.

Similarly the contribution of the solo cellist, Wolfgang Boettcher, made scant impression – the only big sound he produced was when he broke a string – but Karlheinz Zoeller’s flut and (even more so) Lothar Koch’s oboe had better carrying power. Fischer-Dieskau himself seemed less than usually communicative in the three excerpts from cantats included in the first half of the programme, yet something of his artistry and feeling for the composer came over, reminding us how distinguished a Bach performer he is.


Of the purely-instrumental portions of the programme, the bis trio sonata from Bach’s ";Musical Offering" sounded, in the ciecumstances, devitalised and undercharacterised. But by the time the players reached a trio sonata by Telemann, whose music formed the second half of the programme, they seemed to have got the measure of the hall somewhat better. Fischer-Dieskau, too, brought more to Telemann than to Bach, which was goot luck for Telemann, whose "Canary Cantata" would in normal circumstances have seemed a fairly feeble musical joke. Yesterday, sung with relish, it crowned the concert.

Conrad Wilson

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