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Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Lieder
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone)
Gerald Moore (piano)
rec. September 1967 - May 1970, locations not specified
Booklet notes: English, German, French; Texts and translations not included
Track-list at end of review
WARNER CLASSICS 9847382 [6 CDs: 354:16]

This August 2013 re-release of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s much-admired EMI Classics recordings of Strauss Lieder presents a hugely satisfying sweep through the composer’s output in this genre. On Warner Classics’ Budget Boxes label, the set is very attractively priced for such compelling performances.
 
The Moore/Fischer-Dieskau partnership is a joy to behold. Each sparkles in his own right, but the synergy between the two produces results of often exquisite beauty. Each understands the emotional span of the songs perfectly and interacts brilliantly with the other. Fischer-Dieskau takes the limelight with singing of superb quality, but Moore also deserves high praise for a great deal of excellent playing. In the more subdued piano parts he accompanies with great sensitivity, but in the more elaborately-scored accompaniments he plays with soloistic flair and intensity of feeling.
 
The best example of this comes in the 1918 Krämerspiegel (‘The Shopkeeper’s Mirror), in which Strauss provides the pianist with lengthy introductions to many of the twelve songs. Moore’s playing here is sumptuously warm and well characterised to such an extent that he commands an almost equal presence to the star baritone. Fischer-Dieskau, when he enters, is never domineering, instead extending and elaborating the atmosphere set by the introduction. The album seems to give a quick summary of Fischer-Dieskau’s talents, with the high drama of Nos. 3 and 4 in contrast to the beautifully soft touch employed for some of the later songs. He is comfortable throughout a huge vocal range, hitting some remarkably high notes with faultless control.
 
It is the softer moments which show Fischer-Dieskau at his best, though; not least by giving ample scope for elegant rubato, but chiefly for the range of vocal colours captured at hushed dynamics without any compromise of diction. Graceful melisma comes across just as well as hushed, breathy singing at quiet dynamics. The drama of the more expansive songs very occasionally feels slightly overdone in the context of a large set such as this, but within individual albums this is rarely a problem.
 
The Mädchenblumen Op. 32 are another highlight. No. 2 in the set carries a lithe, springy tone. Elsewhere there is a fine example of the soft beauty described above in a grippingly lovely account of No. 4, Wasserrose. The singing here lilts above some gorgeously gentle, undulating broken chords in the piano. The colours in this album are well matched by the Op. 56 Lieder. In particular, Gefunden (No. 1), another flower-inspired song carries exceptional beauty.
 
Though unsurprising for a budget set, it is a great shame that the accompanying booklet extends only to Fischer-Dieskau’s own 1970 notes on Strauss’s Lieder. This amounts to around three pages in each language. The great strength of this set is in bringing together such a large collection of songs, but I found myself wishing for a matching single source of texts. If not in printed form, an electronic copy of the texts would have been a valuable addition.
 
Nonetheless, this is a handsome collection of classic recordings. Fischer-Dieskau’s brilliantly flexible voice serves most of the songs very well; those in search of a slightly different account of the songs might try Christine Brewer’s Hyperion recordings.
 
There are very occasional threats of distortion in the recordings, and the piano’s lower register sometimes feels a little light, but otherwise the sound is very well captured.  

Rohan Shotton 

 
Track-list 
CD 1 [58:33]
Acht Gedichte Op. 10
Fünf Lieder Op. 15
Sechs Lieder Op. 17
Sechs Lieder Op. 19
 
CD 2 [64:29]
Schlichte Weisen Op. 21
Zwei Lieder Op. 26
Mädchenblumen Op. 22
Vier Lieder Op. 27
Lieder Op. 29 Nos. 1 and 3
Drei Lieder Op. 31
Stiller Gang Op. 31 No. 4
Fünf Lieder Op. 32
 
CD 3 [54:51]
Lieder Op. 36 Nos. 1& 4
Lieder Op. 37 Nos. 1-3 & 5-6
Fünf Lieder Op. 39
Lieder Op. 41 Nos. 2-5
Gesänge älterer deutscher Dichter Op. 43 Nos. 1 & 3

CD 4 [57:54]
Fünf Gedichte Op. 46
Fünf Lieder Op. 47
Fünf Lieder Op. 48
Lieder Op. 49 Nos. 1, 2 & 4-6
 
CD 5 [56:48]
Sechs Lieder Op. 56
Krämerspiegel Op. 66
Lieder Op. 67 Nos. 4-6
 
CD 6 [61:41]
Lieder Op. 68 Nos. 1 & 4
Fünf kleine Lieder Op. 69
Gesänge des Orients Op. 77
Gesänge Op. 87 Nos. 1, 3 & 4
Lieder Op. 88 Nos. 1 & 2
Lieder ohne Opuszahl 

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