radio archive performances are issued for the first time. A
very interesting essay by Kurt Malisch relates the position
of these recordings in the Fischer-Dieskau recorded oeuvre.
The 1955 “Liederkreis” comes a year and a half after the baritone’s
first commercial recording of 1954, with Gerald Moore. This
in its turn was preceded by a so far unissued Berlin Radio recording
of 1951 with Hertha Klust. Later recordings were made in 1959
(live from Salzburg with Gerald Moore), 1977 (with Christoph
Eschenbach) and 1985 (with Alfred Brendel).
op. 39 “Liederkreis” occupies a position in music lovers’ affections
scarcely lower than the ubiquitous favourites “Frauenliebe und
Leben” and “Dichterliebe”. In spite of its spellbindingly passionate
tenth song, “Stille Tränen”, the gloomier, pessimistic Kerner
set – Schumann did not call it a cycle – is less loved. Fischer-Dieskau
believed strongly in it while admitting that “Not one of the
poems celebrates joy or calm happiness. Each one speaks of sadness,
loneliness, renunciation, madness – but also of dramatic impulse”.
the op.39 “Liederkreis” made it onto disc well before the Second
World War, the present issue now becomes the earliest complete
“Kerner-Lieder” in existence. It was followed by Fischer-Dieskau’s
first commercial recording, with Weissenborn, in 1957, a live
version from the 1959 Salzburg Festival with Moore and a studio
recording with Eschenbach in 1977. Malisch also mentions that
various radio archives contain further performances.
we need all this Fischer-Dieskau? For those who can afford it,
yes. Whatever reservations one may have over his sometimes forceful,
interventionist approach, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has a chapter
all his own in the history of lieder singing. Strong as his
own personality was, he always worked each performance afresh
in collaboration with the pianist for the occasion. Any archive
recording which brings a different pianist from the commercial
recordings is therefore of interest.
Weissenborn (1911-2001) shows a powerful intellectual engagement
with the music. In the opening song, each one of accompanying
semiquavers is placed with clarity, with a life of its own, whereas
even a classically restrained pianist such as Imogen
Cooper (with Wolfgang Holzmair) lets them run into one another
more romantically. With Weissenborn there is little romantic dawdling
– ritardandos at the end of songs are used sparingly, as is rubato.
But, while Holzmair seems restrained by Cooper’s emotionally polite
playing, Fischer-Dieskau rises to the challenge of giving a performance
which is intensely committed within these parameters. The result
is the closest one would get to a non-interventionist Fischer-Dieskau
performance and some will like it all the more for that.
Klust (1903-1970) is more romantic, with leanings towards slower
tempi and thicker textures. Fischer-Dieskau’s commitment is not
in doubt and this looks like being the “Kerner-Lieder” recording
from him which gives fullest rein to the pessimistic side of the
cycle. Much of it is sung in the husky half-voice of which he
was such a master. I should like to remind readers, though, of
the superb version by the young Peter
Schreier. Perhaps for the very fact that his voice was not
intrinsically very large, he can sing these songs more.
I find his emotional punch in “Stille Tränen” unmatched even by
Fischer-Dieskau. Perhaps, too, the higher tenor key helps to make
these songs not sound any gloomier than they absolutely have to.
the same, Fischer-Dieskau is in a class of his own and these
additional recordings take their place in history. There is
some distortion at climaxes, the piano sound is a little muddy,
particularly in 1954, but generally the quality is very acceptable
for the date.