Wolf: Goethe Lieder

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Goethe Lieder
PERFORMER: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone), Sviatoslav Richter (piano)
Far more than Schubert, Wolf stresses the pathological, unhinged element in the character of the Harper from Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister. And, typically, Fischer-Dieskau makes the three Harper songs more disturbing than any other singer, realising with appalling immediacy all their numb pathos, anguished protest and death longing, while suggesting vestiges of nobility in the blind old man. Elsewhere in this 1977 Munich recital success is more variable. For all his evident dramatic involvement, Fischer-Dieskau overdoes the snarling and sneering in the titanic ‘Prometheus’; and in the delicately whimsical ‘Der neue Amadis’ he sounds by turns hearty and irritable. Most of the lighter songs here, in fact, tend to be too knowing and emphatic, though Richter’s accompaniment in ‘Frühling übers Jahr’ is a miracle of diaphanous lightness. But in ‘Der Rattenfänger’, Fischer-Dieskau and Richter spur each other on to new flights of gleeful, demonic virtuosity; and both the comic sloth of ‘Der Schäfer’ and the bacchanalian exuberance of ‘Ob der Koran’ are shrewdly judged, never exaggerated. Best of all are the two lyrical masterpieces, ‘Phänomen’ and ‘Anakreons Grab’, done with surpassing tenderness and an uncanny feeling for Wolf’s liquescent harmonies. Whatever my provisos, there’s plenty to savour here from one of the great Lieder partnerships, though, as usual, Orfeo criminally stints on texts and translations. Richard Wigmore