Zum Liederabend am 28. Oktober 1960 in London

Observer Review, London, 30. Oktober 1960 

Discord in Old Vienna


The Wolf Centenary Concert was given by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore, who marked the occasion with a recital of memorable excellence. It was a brave act to devote their programme intirely to the Goethe Lieder, for if this collection contains some of Wolf’s finest achievements he is here for the most part at his least approachable, and there are songs in which one is uncomfortably aware of a sense of strain in his confrontation with so great and (to Germans) familiar a poet. Occasionally he lapses into a dry, literary manner, the sheer cleverness of which adds little to the poem. And there are songs in which his humour falls far short of Goethe’s "divine levity."

But the wealth of beauty in these songs is amazing, ranging from the delicate and epigrammatic "Gleich und Gleich," to the brooding melancholy of the Harfenspieler Songs, from the pagan elegy of "Anakreon’s Grab" (surely one of the most moving songs ever written and superbly sung by Fischer-Dieskau on this occasion) to the philosophic grandeur of "Grenzen der Menschheit," from the autumnal tenderness of "Phänomen" to the radiance of "Ganymed." With good reason Ernest Newman described Wolf’s genius as Protean. His chosen form was small in scale, but with it he illuminated every corner of life.

Peter Heyworth

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