Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Strauss, etc

COMPOSERS: Bach,Beethoven,etc,Schubert,Schumann,Strauss
LABELS: DG
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Fischer-Dieskau Edition
WORKS: Songs and arias
PERFORMER: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone); Daniel Barenboim, Gerald Moore, Jörg Demus, Karl Engel (piano), etc
CATALOGUE NO: 463 500-2 ADD mono/stereo
When I spoke to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recently, I asked him what, in a lifetime of singing, he was happiest to have achieved. His reply focused on a single song, ‘Stille Tränen’, which, in his championship of Schumann’s entire Kerner Lieder, he had ensured a central place in the Lieder repertoire. That song, in an early 1957 recording, nestles here within the 20 volumes of this magnificent celebratory boxed set. An even greater achievement than DG’s earlier collection celebrating the mastersinger’s 60th birthday in 1985, this compilation offers much that has not hitherto been available on CD, including a tape which appeared to be lost forever, Fischer-Dieskau’s recording of Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin with Jörg Demus from 1968. The uniquely sensitive and imaginative partnership between these two musicians is generously celebrated throughout this edition; but this is something else besides. Almost feverish in its excitement, and propelled by intoxicating rhythmic vigour, this is as impulsive as Fischer-Dieskau ever gets. Yet there is a subliminal sense of aching longing there, too; and that quality dominates in his almost unbearably raw 1965 Schumann Dichterliebe, recorded shortly after the death of his first wife, the cellist Irmgard Poppen.

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In among the great marker-posts of Fischer-Dieskau’s career – the visionary Winterreise with Daniel Barenboim, the Schwanengesang with Gerald Moore, the Hugo Wolf with Sviatoslav Richter – come the curiosities. I particularly relish the first CD release of a group of songs by performer-composers, among them four beautifully written and exquisitely accompanied by Wilhelm Kempff, and three highly inventive Eichendorff settings by Bruno Walter.

Fischer-Dieskau as oratorio and opera singer is not forgotten. Three arias from the St Matthew Passion celebrate his first collaboration with Karl Richter in 1958, and transcend the ideologies of any ‘school of performance’ that has arisen since. There are two opera discs: the first gives a glimpse of Fischer-Dieskau’s Wagner, with a rigorous yet warmly human 1976 profile of Hans Sachs and a Wotan striding across the Rainbow Bridge with Karajan in 1968. The second, from the French and Italian repertoire, springs the surprise of Fischer-Dieskau’s swashbuckling Toreador, and his German-speaking Falstaff – both under the baton of Ferenc Fricsay.

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Transfers and reprocessing yield superb sound; and each booklet offers fascinating archive photography.