Just recently DG issued a 21-CD collection in honor of Fischer-Dieskau's
75th birthday. This Fischer-Dieskau Edition contains a hitherto
unpublished performance of 'Die schöne Müllerin', recorded
in 1968, with the pianist Jörg Demus. We are told that the
recording was made, edited, approved, and then somehow never issued.
How could that happen? And could it have happened with any singer
less prolific than Fischer-Dieskau? Over the years I have seen many
estimates of Fischer-Dieskau's recorded output. Just one look at
the discography compiled by Monika Wolf suggests that all previous
tabulations of Fischer-Dieskau's recordings grossly underestimate
the total. How does one assess such an achievement? Does the very
number of recordings militate against achieving an accurate evaluation
of their quality? Does the abundance signify industry, dedication,
enormous versatility, or are we dealing here with a 'Lieder Machine'?
Despite the dissenters, it seems that most of us would join J. B.Steane
in paraphrasing Dryden: 'Here is God's plenty.'
Comments and Opinions
"Now, as I am jotting down these lines, I imagine, without
much joy, my impending old age and infirmity. I think of the deaths
of those I have loved and still love. But I am unable to imagine
my own death, since from the beginning I adjusted to the idea of
a dubious reincarnation. It is, for example, possible to acquire
a kind of immortality by impressing songs on records, an act that
makes use of voice, eyes, and the breathing mechanism. Once such
work is finished, these organs collapse, only to flutter away like
swallows in the form of discs, coming to roost in many collections.
A couple of hundred records, twice as many sides, the interpreter's
picture on the sleeve-- so I become an icon both practical and terrifying.
That is how I imagined fame to be when I was very young. But I ignored
death, which goes hand in hand with fame. I worked out a form of
immortality for myself that unfortunately did not take into account
that every title vanishes from the catalogues as quickly as it appears.
But this insight-- along with abandoning pretentious gestures--
came only when I was actually recording." (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau,
"The understanding between Dieter and me was so complete that
while the tapes were running we would, with barely a word exchanged,
repeat an entire song. I knew when he was dissatisfied with himself
and I recognized my shortcomings only too well. A song might be
taped two or three times; I emphasize this because Fischer-Dieskau
had a dislike for the 'patch-work quilt' method of recording, whereby
the finished product is cut and taped and edited from a dozen 'takes'.
When we stopped it did not mean a cessation of work for we would
sit down and listen carefully, sometimes repeatedly, to decided
our plan of campaign for the morrow." (Gerald Moore, commenting
on recording the DG Schubert Edition with Fischer-Dieskau in Farewell
"The first session of a Fischer-Dieskau recording is strenuous.
His voice is difficult to balance because of its enormous dynamic
range, much greater than that of any other singer I have recorded.
No microphone can comfortably accommodate this range of dynamics;
at close quarters even the ear cannot do so. We have had to compress
it; in the best Fischer-Dieskau recordings this compression has
been kept down to a minimum, and has been successfully camouflaged
by the engineer's anticipating extremes of dynamics and compensating
for them in advance. But once these initial hurdles have been negotiated
the recording proceeds fast, as Fischer-Dieskau works very fast.
He comes to recordings well rehearsed. He sings a song through once,
and repeats any section he feels needs to be improved; it is very
rarely that he thinks it necessary to sing a song through a second
time in full. ... I could not be in the studio when Fischer-Dieskau
sang, but I could imagine him standing tense, almost as if coiled
for a sudden leap, the eyes only occasionally looking down at the
score, singing effortlessly, the only unusual gesture, now and again
he would cup open palms behind his ears, so as to give him, from
the reflected sound off them, a closer idea of what his voice sounded
like to somebody else. Later that year, when we saw in our garden
the shrub Dicentra spectabilis in bloom, each flower having two
petals curved back, my wife and I with one voice said 'Dieter'!"
(Suvi Raj Grubb, Music-Makers on Record)
"Even without his participation as a singer it is unarguable
that Fischer-Dieskau is one of the fathers of the Hyperion Schubert
Edition: his ground-breaking Schubert recordings with Gerald Moore
in the seventies gave us the courage to embark on an enterprise
such as ours. Where he leads others have followed, and th ýis
has been a pattern throughout his life; for over forty years Fischer-Dieskau
has dominated the world of Lieder. Apart from his example as a performing
artist, countless programme planners owe to his song archive their
knowledge of the repertoire available to them. Over the years he
has built up a list of recordings which now makes an endlessly consulted
encyclopaedia of the Lied." (Graham Johnson, 1995.)
An Early Review
Schubert: Schumann. Der Erlkönig, Op. 1. Die Beiden Grenadiere,
from Romanzen und Balladen, Op. 49, Vol. 2, No. 1. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
(baritone), Gerald Moore (piano). Sung in German. H.M.V. DB21350
(12 in., 9s. 8 1/2d).
There seems no doubt that, if he conserves his resources and is
not, like so many young and successful artists, led into singing
everything everywhere, Fischer-Dieskau has it in him to become the
finest male lieder singer of the day. At present though he infuses
his words with meaning, his enunciation needs sharpening. Fischer-Dieskau
gets to the heart of eac h of these two very familiar lieder and
gives a convincing and rounded dramatic presentation of them, always
in the frame of the concert hall, not of the stage. I noted especially
the clipped speech he used for the patriotic grenadier and the suggestion
of exhaustion in the last words-- Gerald Moore finely painting the
soldier's death in the piano postlude.
Fischer-Dieskau gives, on the reverse, the most compelling interpretation
of Der Erlkönig I have heard for a very long time. His Erlking,
whispering into the boy's ear, is really sinister and the singer
graphically suggests the boy's growing agitation and the father's
bewilderment, and the awe-struck tone in which he sings the last
words, "war tot," is a finely done imaginative touch.
I have before praised Gerald Moore's playing of the taxing accompaniment
of The Erlking and need only add here that he surpasses previous
achievements. A.R. [Alec Robertson's first (1951) review of a Fischer-Dieskau
recording, reprinted in the Gramophone in November 1993.]