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Franz SCHUBERT (1797-1828)
Die Winterreise D. 911 (1827)

Gute Nacht
Die Wetterfahne
Gefror’ne Tränen
Der Lindenbaum
Auf dem Flusse
Die Post
Der greise Kopf
Die Krähe
Letzte Hoffnung
Im Dorfe
Der stürmische Morgen
Der Wegweiser
Das Wirtshaus
Die Nebensonnen
Der Leiermann

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)
Gerald Moore (piano)
Recorded in the Gemeindehaus, Berlin-Zehlendorf on 13 and 14 January 1955.
Great Recordings of the Century
EMI CLASSICS 7243 5 67927 2 2 [74. 36]


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Schubert’s tragic song cycle Winterreise, conceived in two sets of a dozen songs each, was written in February 1827, the year before his death; indeed he was correcting the proofs of the second dozen of the twenty-four as he lay on his death-bed. A note of deep melancholy and loneliness pervades the songs, most of which are in the minor mode, but there are exceptions, the demure start and conclusion to ‘Frühlingstraum’, or the half-playful picture of the street minstrel in the final ‘Der Leiermann’. But there is a grimly autobiographical element as the defiance against winter storms gradually gets worn down to distraught weariness as he approaches the grave in ‘Das Wirtshaus’.

Schubert’s greatness in the field of the song-cycle has been incontestable from the outset, because the kaleidoscopic range of emotion and the unceasing musical invention in them is nothing short of miraculous. It would not be fanciful to say that the art of setting the Lied begins with Schubert, and then taken further by Schumann, Brahms and Hugo Wolf. He was about thirty years old when he wrote Winterreise, so was the poet Wilhelm Müller, and even Fischer-Dieskau when he made this recording in January 1955. Somehow this common denominator makes it more special, though later recordings do inevitably bring a maturer, more experienced element to his interpretation of the darker songs in the cycle. He and Gerald Moore had first worked together three years earlier at the Edinburgh Festival, after which Fischer-Dieskau went on to a forty-year career as a Lieder singer, with ten years less as an opera singer. The pair of them recorded the cycle twice more, in 1965 and 1972 and later versions tended to be more perceptive and deeply imagined than this freshly youthful first essay. The cycle was originally conceived for a higher voice (many would therefore prefer Pears accompanied by Britten) but the dark vocal colours add a unique element and produce a consistently remarkable interpretation. Fischer-Dieskau has always had a reputation for the cerebral approach, clinically detailed, impeccably accurate in his enunciation, sometimes over-emphasising climaxes or stressing certain words at the expense of a singer’s vital sense of legato line and architectural sweep - too clever for his own good. But here there are no such stilted mannerisms, neither is there is any lack of variety in tone and colour contrasts, rather the performances are deeply perceptive, full of subtle nuance, finely honed detail and brimful of intense atmosphere, and with him, every step of the way, are the uniquely sensitive accompaniments of that doyen of British musicians, Gerald Moore.

As part of the series ‘Great Recordings of the Century’, this disc has a place by right and will disappoint no lover of Schubert, Fischer-Dieskau or Moore.

Christopher Fifield


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