Brahms: Die schöne Magelone; 3 Lieder

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WORKS: Die schöne Magelone; 3 Lieder
PERFORMER: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone); Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
Brahms’s only genuine song cycle has never been as popular as those by Schubert and Schumann, arguably lacking their emotional range and melodic inspiration. Ludwig Tieck’s retelling of a famous tale of romantic chivalry appealed to Brahms greatly, though it has to be said that the poetry in these fifteen ‘Romances’ which punctuate Tieck’s novel is scarcely of the highest order. Fischer-Dieskau was very fond of the work and recorded it on several occasions, but this performance with Richter at the 1970 Salzburg Festival was clearly a special event. Both artists were at the height of their powers, and a deep affinity with the Romantic, youthful Brahms is well-evident. As so often with Fischer-Dieskau, sheer vocal beauty takes second place to the singer’s obvious engagement with the text. This is not to say he makes an ugly sound; merely that the tone of the singing does not draw particular attention to itself. Nor for that matter does Richter’s reading of the piano part, his keen musical intelligence always at the service of the singer and the song. The recording sounds remarkably good, aside from a few platform squeaks and some discreet coughing from the Mozarteum audience. Orfeo’s presentation is less ideal, with the wrong opus number on the cover and no texts or translations. Stephen Maddock