Zum Konzert am 5. November 1956 in New York
New York Times, 6. November 1956
Music: Work by Martin
Fischer-Dieskau Sings ‘Jedermann’ Setting
The Little Orchestra Society’s concert at Town Hall last night reached memorable levels, thanks to the cooperation of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. The German baritone, who has sung in recital here but not with orchestra, contributed performances of searching musicianship, and the two works in which he appeared rank among the high points of the Little Orchestra’s career.
Thomas Scherman, guiding spirit of the society, showed the kind of initiative one takes for granted in him when he invited Herr Fischer-Dieskau to sing with his group. The music they chose was rare and rewarding. Frank Martin’s setting of Six Monologues from "Jedermann" had its first performance in this country. And then there was Bach’s cantata, "Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen," which is not encountered every day.
The Swiss composer’s setting of the "Jedermann" monologues, composed in 1943, is drenched in a kind of lateromantic remorse. Hofmannsthal’s lines are filled with self-recrimination and not a little self-pity, and they are matched to music laden with sorrow and despair.
Though the composer has used the twelve-tone system in other works, he has couched this piece in an idiom that seems from late Wagner and Richard Strauss. There is also a touch of impressionism in it. But he has fused his sources into a style that suits the emotion of the monologues. The soloist is not always in the forefront: occasionally the singer is like another voice in the instrumental tissue. The writing for orchestra and soloist is sure-handed and effective.
One’s own wave length may not be attuned to the expressive content of these monologues with their almost morbid concern with death. But one was drawn into the emotional ambience of the work whether one liked it or not. The soloist’s art and sincerity were responsible for that.
Herr Fischer-Dieskau was always the musician. He did not concern himself with tones for their own sake, as some vocalists might do. He immersed himself in Frank Martin’s world, and when he came to Bach, he seemed to step back a couple of centuries and absorb himself in the religious feeling of the cantata. He seldom sang above a mezzoforte; it was as if he were at a service in a baroque German church. The aria, "Endlich, endlich," was a feat of delicate virtuosity, and the concluding chorale had a lofty dedication.
Mr. Scherman conducted the Bach cantata from the piano (purists would demand why a harpsichord was not used). He kept his ensemble under dareful restraint, and the result was a performance of moving spiritual content. Mr. Scherman and the soloist had evidently prepared the Martin composition carefully, too.
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