Song cycles and Lieder by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, Busoni, Mahler, Pfitzner, Strauss & Beethoven

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COMPOSERS: Brahms,Busoni,Mahler,Pfitzner,Schumann,Song cycles and Lieder by Schubert,Strauss & Beethoven,Wolf
ALBUM TITLE: Song cycles and Lieder
WORKS: Song cycles and Lieder by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, Busoni, Mahler, Pfitzner, Strauss & Beethoven
PERFORMER: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (bass-baritone), Gerald Moore (piano)
Strong critics have been carried away groaning under the burden of reissues celebrating the great man’s 80th birthday. Listening to this set, though, offers new and unalloyed pleasure, not least in its overview of his partnership with the ‘unashamed accompanist’ Gerald Moore. From 1956 to 1965 their Lieder evenings became an annual highlight of the Salzburg festival, and here we have the radio broadcasts, complete with encores, many for the first time.


Their programmes are practically a cross-section of the German lieder repertoire, Schubert and Schumann naturally, a vibrantly youthful Dichterliebe from 1956, but also Beethoven, Brahms (including Die schöne Magelone), quantities of Wolf and an evening of Mahler, Strauss and the less usual Pfitzner and Busoni. There’s also a bonus disc which offers the surviving first half of a Wolf evening, the Spanisches Liederbuch in partnership with Irmgard Seefried, delightful despite occasionally sour tone.


In every case the sense of immediacy, continuity and contrast of well-chosen programmes and the electricity of live performance make these something apart from the well-known studio recordings, yet without any significant diminution in virtuosity. Moore’s playing is distinctive enough to daunt a lesser singer, but the sense of unity here is powerful. In the early recitals especially, the over-emphatic aspects of Fischer-Dieskau’s style sometimes emerge, but in general he is here at his most fluent and lyrical. The hysteria of ‘Der Feuerreiter’ is beautifully judged, ‘Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen’ a model of elegant melancholy; but it’s pointless to single out individual songs among such a wealth – or wish texts were included, perhaps. Allowing for the mono sound, the restoration is splendid and full of presence, and the audience hushed, which in itself suggests the spell this unique pair could cast over them. Michael Scott Rohan