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Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau sings Lieder
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone) Aribert Reimann & Hermann Reutter (piano)
EMI Classics CMS5 67349 2 [76.12, 73.44,73.53]
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These 1970-74 studio recordings on 3 CDs collect together 89 rare performances of rare songs from 1850-1950. Most are accompanied by Aribert Reimann, composer of the opera Lear written for Fischer-Dieskau, recently reissued on CD and reviewed on MotW.

No texts are included, which severely limits access to understanding and enjoyment. This undermines an otherwise alluring offering, and poses problems for ecommendation and rating. The liner notes have only a generalised essay on transformations of the art song during the hundred years covered. There is not even anything to link this release with Fischer-Dieskau's vast repertoire, demonstrated so very strikingly here, at the time when everyone is reviewing his career.

The selection of 42 composers ranges from Robert Franz via Nietsche (!) through to a group of later 20.C German composers, with many names virtually unknown in UK along the way.

But, I thought, exceptional rarities apart, there should be no insoluble problem, so I turned to Fischer-Dieskau's own massive and indispensable book, The Fischer-Dieskau Book of Lieder. But disappointment awaited. Under composers, very few of the poems set were listed. One or two more emerged from trawling the list of poets, but time and again one found that the title might look right, but it was a different poem! For this anthology, Fischer-Dieskau sought far beyond those songs selected in his own compendium to represent their composers. So this is an uncommon collection, of uncommon interest, and if it does not sell well it will presumably soon disappear for ever.

Should you buy it? If the voice concerns you most, no need to hesitate. Fischer-Dieskau is in fine voice throughout, the recordings with both accompanists well balanced and sonically impeccable. Ten songs by Robert Franz can probably be enjoyed for their melodies and tasteful accompaniments without fussing too much. But listen with the text to Pfitzner's seven minute Goethe setting An die Mond I (p. 45) or Fortner's of Holderlin's Hyperion's Song of Fate (p. 245) and you will immediately appreciate what you are missing with the vast majority of the others.

It is for his interpretation of words, and elucidation of their significance in performance, that Fischer-Dieskau became famous and will always remain so for having advanced the art of Lieder singing.

It is probable that the original LPs were supplied with texts as usual? A few of these settings are in English (Shakespeare & Langston Hughes) and of course with CDs you can always repeat a track to try to get more of the sense, but their much-vaunted convenience comes at a price. My wife, for whom German is her first language, recognises that Fischer-Dieskau's diction is excellent, but even so one hears woords and phrases, but often the poem remains elusive without a sight of the text as a whole. I have always contended this for song in English too.

This is another example of how some of the record companies, especially bigger ones, seem to be losing the plot! This might have been a spectacularly valuable part of the Fischer-Dieskau at 75 celebrations. Released as CD-Roms (how long will ordinary CDs in their restrictive jewel-cases survive the competition with newer formats?) it would have been easy to provide all the words together with background information about Apostel, Beck, Eulenburg, Hauer, Hiller, Mettiesen, Nietsche (as composer), Reutter, Ritter, Streicher, Tiessen & Wetzel, then this would surely have been a five-star must and a best seller!


Peter Grahame Woolf


Includes works by Apostel , Bartok , Beck , Berlioz , Blacher , Cornelius , Debussy , Dessau , von Einem , Eisler , Eulenburg , Fortner , Franz , Grieg , Hauer , Hiller , Hindemith , Jensen , Kirchner , Krenek , Liszt , Mahler , Mattiesen , Milhaud , Nietzsche , Pfitzner , Raff , Reger , Reutter , Ritter , Rubinstein , von Schillings , Schoenberg , Schreker , Strauss , Streicher , Tiessen , Wagner , Webern , Weingartner , Wetzel.


Peter Grahame Woolf

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