Zum Liederabend am 26. Oktober 1962 in London
The Sunday Times, 28. Oktober 1962
On Friday the Festival Hall was again full, this time for a programme of twenty-three of Hugo Wolf’s Mörike songs (including three encores) sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau to the accompaniment of Gerald Moore. This, too, was an evening of high seriousness and high accomplishment. Mr. Moore’s partnership was virtually flawless. The wild fury of "Der Feuerreiter" cannot make its full impact with a closed piano-lid, and in "Fussreise" the constant dotted rhythm in the left hand that gives the song its happy, jaunty gait was a shade underemphasised; but that was all. Perhaps a critic may appropriately single out for praise the pianist’s tearing high spirits in the Viennese waltz that celebrates another carping critic’s discomfiture and rout in "Abschied".
It was in this concluding group of comic songs, little prized by most Wolf lovers, that Mr. Fischer-Dieskau showed himself at his very best, establishing here a complete and instantaneous contact with the entire audience. Everything that he did was solid and beautiful, for he has a whole armoury of virtues: splendid tone, pure intonation, impeccable enunciation, poetic insight, fine taste. He is beyond question a complete master of his art.
Yet I am forced to confess that repeatedly, while listening to this excellent artist, my admiration stops somewhere short of the keenest personal delight, the last unmistakable half-physical joy of total surrender. On these occasions I feel quite vexed with myself. When so much is right, what can be wrong? I myself perhaps? The unsuitable size of the hall? Or is it simply a sheer impossibility for any man on earth, however gifted and however conscientious, to have in his repertory such hundreds and hundreds of songs – not to mention scores and scores of operas and oratorios and cantatas – and to have made each one of them utterly and decisively his own property, in the sense that a Gerhardt or a Schumann, a Henschel or a Plunket Greene, completely possessed the far fewer songs that they sung to us? Even to pose such a question seems bleak in gratitude; but I think that may be it.
Sunday Telegraph, Datum unbekannt
Feeling for Wolf
This has been a vintage week for recitals. On Friday night, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore all but filled the Festival Hall for a programme of Hugo Wolf’s Mörike lieder – an unthinkable event not so long ago and a tribute to the special relationship these two artists have developed.
Anyone lifting an incautious pen on the subject must have uncomfortably in mind the relish with which Fischer-Dieskau sang the last song "Abschied" – no tearstained farewell, but an account of the brisk despatch of a critic downstairs and (Mr. Moore at his most buoyant) the cheery Viennese waltz that celebrates the event.
But there is little cause for contention. For one thing, Fischer-Dieskau’s humour has grown much fresher, less studied. It is also less purely hearty, He has developed still more richly his feeling for the curious mood often invoked in Wolf, that half-whimsical, half desperate gaiety set against black despair.
The Mörike settings bring out all this unnerving quality. Fischer-Dieskau can force laughs, by sheer will-power, at the picture of the weeping wedding couple who do not want to marry, but the chill of his tone and the deadness behind the phrasing freeze the mind.
In different vein, "Storchenbotschaft" was brilliantly handled, a touching note of gaucheness adding just the right clumsy pathos to the tale of the storks with news of twins. Here, even more than in the magnificent surge of tone and muscular grace of line in "Lebe wohl" or the tenderness of the "Peregrina" songs, lies the mark of this great singer’s still unfolding artistry.
Observer, 28. Oktober 1962
The Secrets of Hugo Wolf
Hugo Wolf is more honoured in history books than listened to in the concert halls. Indeed, were it not for the fact that in Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who on Friday gave a recital at the Festival Hall devoted entirely to the Mörike Lieder, his songs have a superb exponent, they might today be lingering under a cloud of neglect.
The trouble is that the very thing which so endears them to the historian – that unique closeness of text and music which was first heralded in these very Mörike settings – stands in the way of popularity. One might suppose that the manner in which the music clings to every turn of the text might make them easier to listen to. In fact the human mind cannot give full attention simultaneously to two orders as distinct as literature and music, particularly when the words are in a foreign language and the music is often elaborate.
Alas, full enjoyment of Hugo Wolf calls for a little homework. That may sound pedantic, but it is no good pretending that one can wander into a concert unprepared and expect these songs to yield their secrets on casual acquaintanceship. Until the general sense of the language and the general shape of the music is clear and can to some extent be taken for granted, the mind cannot begin to explore the countless subtleties that link them. A recent study by Eric Sams ("The Songs of Hugo Wolf," Methue, 36s.), is a useful tool for this purpose.
Certainly a little preparation for a concert of this sort is amply rewarded, for quite apart from Wolf. Mörike is a far more intriguing and many-sided poet than the image of a rustic, nineteenth-century Swabian pastor might suggest. His splendidly firm and unmannered use of language, sharp humour, highly individual blend of eroticism and piety, and intense feeling for the natural world are the foundations on which Wolf raised some of his finest songs. It is in these Mörike settings that he comes nearest to that eternal springtime of German romanticism. In a real sense they represent his youth.
If on Friday Fischer-Dieskau sounded a fraction below his best voice, that still left him head and shoulders above all contenders and without peer as an interpreter of this music. The revelation of the concert came in the comic group with which he ended an admirably planned programme, and which should finally explode the legend that his art is lacking in humour (the coyness of "Storchenbotschaft" is not his fault).
He applied no generalised buffo manner, but the exact brand of humour in each song was caught with unerring precision. In particular the little waltz at the end of "Abschied" was thrown off with ineffable stylishness. Need I add that the more intense and inward songs were done with Fischer-Dieskau’s customary mastery, and that, as always when he is partnering this great singer in Hugo Wolf, Gerald Moore excelled himself?