Daniel Levy is a meticulous pianist totally dedicated to his
art. He brings deep thought, deliberation and interpretative
values to his performances and recordings. His recordings are
published under his own label, Edelweiss, allowing him artistic
choice over venues and technical support. This independence
gives him the freedom to put together unusual, imaginative and
intelligent programmes such as this. His reading of the oft
performed and recorded Schumann Piano Concerto is no exception.
This is a thoughtful, probing reading. Levy makes the work sing,
alternating joy and assertiveness with moving sadness and melancholy.
Levy’s poised Allegro affettuoso opening flows at a leisurely
pace and is unaffectedly poetic. The short Intermezzo
is nicely playful in its sunlit passages before gently wistful
meanderings. The Allegro vivace finale progresses firmly
and eloquently with Schumann’s demanding high-lying piano passage-work
splendidly wrought. The shorter one-movement Konzertstück
also impresses allowing Levy full rein for his quick-and-strong-fingered
virtuosity. Fischer-Dieskau, as conductor, provides sturdy support
and encourages some gorgeous horn solo work.
Since his retirement, from singing, in 1992, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
(b. 1925) has been given the opportunity to display other sides
of his remarkable talents. For the concerto he provides sterling
and sensitive accompaniments and that for the finale is especially
At his peak, Fischer-Dieskau was greatly admired for his interpretive
insights and exceptional control of his beautiful voice. He
has also performed and recorded a great many operatic
roles. The most recorded singer of all time, he was at the peak
of his profession on both operatic stage and concert platform
for over thirty years. His interpretations of Schumann Lieder
have been acclaimed by audiences around the world. He has recorded
and the complete lieder for male voice, with Christoph
Eschenbach on Deutsche Grammophon and Schumann’s Liederkreis,
with Gerald Moore on EMI. Thus he has a very considerable insight
into the Lieder of Robert Schumann.
I think it was Stephen Varcoe, who lecturing at an English Song
Weekend a few years ago, suggested that music academies should
encourage singers to study lieder, chansons and art songs in
depth: their structure, flow, metre and rhythms. Just as importantly,
they should also study the song’s texts, appreciating their
natural musicality and their meaning obvious and possibly hidden.
Incidentally he also suggested that audiences would derive added
pleasure if they made a similar study of the texts.
Thus the very experienced and knowledgeable Fischer-Dieskau
brings a heightened sensitivity to his Schumann declamations
supported by Levy at the piano. Levy grandly, regally introduces
Schön Hedwig as the knight - ‘so young and bold; His
dark eyes shine with a fiery glint; As though on battle he were
bent. And his cheeks are all aglow.” The hero knight is approached
by the gentle Fair Hedwig and at once the music softens as she
fills his glass with wine. The knight asks where she has come
from, where she is going and why she seems to be always following
him. Impressed with her answers, he then asks her if she loves
him; the maiden demurely assents and the gathering is summoned
to their nuptials. The dialogue between Hedwig and her knight
is nicely, dramatically pitched, Fischer-Dieskau colouring his
voice according to the two characters’ lines and changing emotions.
One gets the impression that a lieder environment is somehow
expanding to a staging of an operatic scene. Vom Heideknaben
(‘The Moorland Boy’) is the first of the dire Gothic Op. 106,
Two Ballads written in the same year as the Konzertstück.
The Moorland Boy’s story is a horror narrative, not unlike
like Schubert’s Erlkönig. Again Fischer-Dieskau mounts
an operatic stage, putting on a weak pleading voice for the
Moorland Boy who has been shaken by a terrible dream in which
he foresees his death in the forest. He also finds a gruff disbelieving
manner for the boy’s brutal, disbelieving master who insists
that the boy makes the journey to take money to complete a transaction.
A wily delivery is reserved for the shepherd’s lad who, the
young terrified boy recognises as his assailant from his nightmare.
All the while both piano and voice bestow a creepy atmosphere
especially in the misty woodlands scene of the murder. In similar
vein is the other song of Op. 106, Die Flüchtlinge (‘The
Fugitives’) to a text by Shelley. Fischer-Dieskau and Levy join
to present a blood-curdling picture of the most violent of storms
raging over land and sea. Clinging together in a small, wildly
tossed boat is a young couple eloping from the ire of the girl’s
father. It seems even more threatening than the ravages of the
storm. His anger precipitates tragedy as the storm claims its
An unusual and imaginative Schumann programme presented with
imposing interpretative flair.