This was the only recital Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (b.1925)
ever recorded for Decca. Its reissue on CD is welcome, but it
said that Decca’s presentation is dreadful. The front of
the original LP sleeve is reproduced, which is pleasant;
also reproduced is the reverse of that sleeve, which contained
notes by Christopher Raeburn. Reduced to CD size – the print
is absolutely tiny and not very well printed – it is near
enough illegible. My own great difficulty in reading these
notes has been shared by others whose eyes are a good deal
younger and better than mine. A web address is given where
we are told that these liner notes can be found - a tacit
admission that they are illegible on the CD – but I couldn’t
find them at the address given.
There are no texts or translations. The
miniaturised LP sleeve contains the words ‘Insert Included’,
so presumably the original LP did have texts/translations.
This is presentation which shows scant respect for the performers
and the paying customer.
It is a pleasure to turn to the music itself.
Quite a number of the items included are insertion arias,
written by Haydn or Mozart for performances of operas by
others or for use in revised productions of their own operas.
The recital begins, for example, with an aria written by
Haydn in 1787 for inclusion in an Esterhazy performance of Bianchi’s Il
disertore francese; it also includes Haydn’s ‘Dice benissimo’,
written for another Esterhazy production, this time of Salieri’s La
scuola de’gelosi. The Mozart items include arias written
for productions of Paisiello’s La disfatta di Dario (‘Mentre
ti lascio’) and Pasquale Anfossi’s Le gelosio fortunate (‘Un
bacio de mano’).
There is much to enjoy in this recital,
such as Haydn’s beautiful ‘Un cor si tenero’ (the aria written
for Bianchi’s opera) and the same composer’s charming ‘Dice
benissimo’, a piece to grace any opera buffa. ‘Tergi
I vezzosi rai’ is from Haydn’s second version of Acide e
Galatea and gives the singer the chance for some florid display – a
chance which Fischer-Dieskau doesn’t neglect. Mozart’s ‘Ich
möchte wohl der kaiser sein’ is an engaging oddity, a Turkish-flavoured
setting of warlike sentiments in unsophisticated verse; ‘Nach
der welschen Art’ was written for the singspiel version of La
finta giardiniera, an aria in which Nardo explains how
a lady should be wooed in Italy, France and England – each
explanation/demonstration being in the relevant language
and distinctively styled, musically speaking.
Some of the playing of the Wiener Haydn-Orchester
now sounds rather dated. Nor, of course, is Fischer-Dieskau’s
vocal style quite what we have now largely come to expect
in such material. Yet it would surely be very foolish to
give too much weight to ‘historical’ quibbles here – Fischer-Dieskau’s
control of dynamics, subtlety of phrasing, general attractiveness
of tone and, above all, the intelligence with which he interprets
text are such as to overcome all such matters. Musicianship
of such a quality and perceptiveness is rare and it makes
for a thoroughly rewarding collection.