Franz SCHUBERT (1797–1828)
Winterreise D911 [73:00]
The Rehearsal (bonus documentary) [56:00]
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)
Alfred Brendel (piano)
rec. Siemensvilla, Berlin, Germany 1979
Die Schöne Müllerin [62:00]
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in conversation with Franz Zoglauer, Schubertiade 1985 (bonus documentary) [20:00]
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)
András Schiff (piano)
rec. Montforthaus, Feldkirch 1991
Sound format: LPCM stereo
Picture format: 4:3
Picture standard: NTSC
Region code: 0
Subtitles: GB, D, F, I, E
ARTHAUS MUSIC 101 509 [129+82]

This boxed set of two discs, released as a “Special Edition” for the 85th birthday of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau combines two previously released DVDs. We reviewed the first, back in 2006 so I won’t go back and discuss the Winterreise disc, other than to say that I found it very good, and certainly worth getting for any fan of this great singer. So I’ll discuss here the second disc (Die Schöne Müllerin), released about the same time, but that didn’t make it to MusicWeb International.

The first thing to note is that, unlike the Winterreise disc, Die Schöne Müllerin was recorded live, this time with András Schiff. While the Winterreise recording was made during what one might call Fischer-Dieskau’s “late prime” - in 1979 - Die Schöne Müllerin was recorded in 1991, near the end of his singing career.

While not in his prime, he is still the most emblematic singer of Schubert’s lieder, and any films of him performing this music are worth having. While he recorded hundreds of discs of music, there are relatively few films of his performances.

This concert took place in a small hall, apparently for TV, with what seem to be minimal resources. There appear to have been only two cameras, both situated on the left side of the hall, quite far away. The camera work is little more than the occasional zoom, slight pan, or cut from one to the other. This almost looks like an amateur production. The lighting is not excellent, and the sound of Schiff’s piano is muffled. Schiff, a Schubert specialist, is an excellent accompanist here, so this is a shame. Fischer-Dieskau’s voice comes through well enough, and the singer is his usual comfortable self, with magnetic stage presence, but it’s clear that his voice is not as flexible as it was in earlier years.

A 20-minute interview with Fischer-Dieskau, recorded in 1985, rounds out this DVD, where the singer discusses Schubert’s lieder. It’s brief and not very enlightening.

Faute de mieux, this disc is worth owning for fans of this great singer, and the recording of Winterreise in this set makes up for the weaknesses in Die Schöne Müllerin. Though you might want to just pick up the Winterreise recording, as each of these discs is available individually.

Kirk McElhearn

A set of two DVDs, one excellent, the other so-so, but still necessary for fans of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Schubert’s lieder… see Full Review