Zum Liederabend am 15. März 1965 in New York

     New York Times, 16. März 1967     

The Greatest of Contemporary Lieder Singers in Recital

Fischer-Dieskau Gives Schumann Program;
 Moore is Accompanist at Carnegie Hall


Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the most protean singer alive today, sang the first of three recitals lat night in Carnegie Hall, devoting his entire program to songs by Schumann. Has there been any area in which Fischer-Dieskau has not conquered? He is acknowledged to be the greatest of contemporary lieder singers. He has triumphed in opera, singing everything from Handel to Henze. He is a stalwart in oratorio work. His repertory far exceeds that of any singer today, and probably in history. Certainly he has made more records than any singer who has ever lived, in a repertory from the 18th century to the latest moderns.

His singing is an illustration of what sheer will power, plus impeccable musicianship, can do. Many singers have more beautiful voices than Mr. Fischer-Dieskau. Nobody has his kind of intelligence-- an intelligence that has by now ripened into consummate art.

As a younger singer he would often be tempted into excess. In his determination to extract the last bit of juice from a song, he would go in for crooning effects, or he might bark a series of phrases. That is not heard any more. His singing is under intellectual and emotional control: it is a disciplined art that he represents, and a noble one.

Lacking the ultimate in pure voice-- though his strong, clear baritone would more than suffice for most singers-- he uses a canny mixture of techniques to achieve variety. In any given song he will employ pianissimo effects, head tones, perhaps a touch of falsetto. All is aimed for an expressive end. Where other singers use their voice in an 
instrumental-like manner (this was especially true of some of the previous generation of lieder singers), Mr. Fischer-Dieskau is more of the Elena Gerhardt school. His aim is to underline the emotional aspects of a song; to achieve a complete fusion of word and music; indeed to make a little tone poem out of each song.

He has an unerring feeling for the climax of a song, and builds up to it in an inevitable manner. He manages this without coyness or archness; it is completely natural. All of the great singers and instrumentalists aim toward building to an emotional climax, and Mr. Fischer-Dieskau is a master at this. Sometimes he is even able to do it in reverse. He might take an entire song almost pianissimo, increasing volume just at one spot. The effect is overwhelming.

Last night he sang a fine, varied program. Some of the songs-- "Widmung," "Der Nussbaum" (that most perfect lyric of German lieder) "Aus den hebraischen Gesaengen"-- were old favorites. So were the eight songs of the "Liederkreis" (Op. 24). Then there were five songs that Schumann set to Heine poems, and six to poems by Geibel. Many of these were rather rare. The last one was "Der Contrabandiste" of which Carl Tausig made a virtuoso piano arrangement. Rachmaninoff and Lhevine used to play it in our time.

One other aspect of Mr. Fischer-Dieskau's singing in these songs should be mentioned, and that is his supple sense of rhythmic phrase. His rhythm is never foursquare; he sings through the bar-line and into the phrase. The words and musical meaning, not the bar, consition his singing, and it is a lesson in musical metrics.

At the piano was Gerald Moore, who came in for a hearty round of applause. For this there was a reason above and beyond his lovely contribution to the recital. Mr. Moore, the dean of accompanists, is retiring after this season, and this is his last swing on the circuit. Slightly bowed, the veteran played with finesse, understanding (that goes without saying), and, often, power. He was not one of those discreet figures who tinkle away in the background. He was a full partner to Mr. Fischer-Dieskau's often vigorous singing, and the singing tone was matched by the piano tone.

Harold C. Schonberg

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