Zum Liederabend am 30. August 1978 in Edinburgh

The Scotsman, 31. August 1978

Matchless Schubert evening

Fischer-Dieskau and Barenboim: Usher Hall

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s tribute to Peter Diamand last Friday – a performance of Schubert’s "Im Abendrot" was expanded last night into an entire Schubert programme, matchlessly assembled, matchlessly sung and, by Daniel Barenboim, matchlessly accompanied. Arguably – no, inarguably – it was the event of the Festival so far, a profoundly musical celebration of the composer’s sesquicentenary in which even the encores formed an essential part of the experience.

It began with "Prometheus", a perfect prelude to a programme in which the heroic Schubert was contrasted with quieter songs. On the whole, the more genially tuneful Schubert was avoided, partly, no doubt, because everyone is familiar with that side of the composer, through performances by Mr Fischer-Dieskau himself and other singers. The music this time was largely serious, often sombre – songs which, for all their greatness, turn up less frequently than one would expect. Even "Death and the Maiden," in its definitive form, today gives way in popularity to the string quartet of the same name.

It was good to hear "Death and the Maiden" and other such songs in what could equally be called definitive performances. Though now in his fifties, Mr Fischer-Dieskau still commands the most precisely controlled tone, the most beautifully gauged dynamics and, at the top of his register, the most gently floated phrases, as song after song last night demonstrated. The more declamatory music was stirringly voiced, but the soft songs, too, made their point, even in so big an auditorium – the (Mayrhofer) "Nachtstück," for instance, was a miracle of quiet intensity, as gripping as anything else in the recital.

As for Daniel Barenboim, his use of his left hand in "An Silvia" would alone proclaim him the best Schubert accompanist since Gerald Moore. No less memorable were the thoughtful postludes he gave to "Memnon" and "Freiwilliges Versinken," the little hesitations and swells of piano tone in "Fischers Liebesglück" (marvellously matched to Mr Fischer-Dieskau’s shaping of the vocal line), and the shifts of colour in the equestrian accompaniment to the encore song of farewell. A triumphant evening.

Conrad Wilson

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