Zum Konzert am 29. August 1968 in Edinburgh

Glasgow Herald, 27. August 1968

Outstanding concert by singer and pianist

Fischer-Dieskau, Britten, and the Amadeus Quartet.
Leith Town Hall.

Authentic or not, the cantata attributed to Purcell which opened yesterday morning’s concert in Leith Town Hall must have been written by an uncommonly gifted composer.

"When Night her Purple Veil" did have the advantage of a performance which was exquisitely turned.

From Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, to Britten, and members of the Amadeus String Quartet in better trim than the day before, this was a joy to hear.

Fischer-Dieskau has a glorious voice, round and secure in tone, and so flexible that he can range from the most meticulous whisper I have ever heard to a marvellously warm and unrestrained forte.

This was heard to even better effect in the "Songs and Proverbs of William Blake" which Britten wrote in 1965. The tremendous punch in these pithy words was matched in the way that only Britten, in this day and age, knows how.

The tense little Scherzo "The Tyger", flashed past in a performance of extraordinary aplomb, while there was a wistful little figure for "The Fly" which was peculiarly touching and apt for this allegorical verse.

And in "A Poison Tree" the setting was most powerfully conceived, the great leaping octaves at the end finding their perfect expression in Fischer-Dieskau’s voice.


R. C.


     The Guardian, Edinburgh?, 30. August 1968     


Britten and Fischer-Dieskau at Leith Town Hall


Britten’s music has been paired with Schubert’s at this Festival, of course, and with Bach’s more than once, but not until now with Purcell’s, one of the major influences in the formation of Britten’s style. At least, the intention was to include a Purcell piece in the Leith Town Hall concert, yesterday morning, although it is not known whether he really is the composer of the cantata, "When Night Her Purple Veil," which was so enthusiastically sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, to the accompaniment of two Amadeus Quartet violins, and a continuo played by the Amadeus Quartet cellist and by Benjamin Britten at the incongruous piano. Whoever the composer, the cantata served its purpose. We hear the fresh and natural sort of word setting which cuts across two centuries of bad habit and finds a reflection in Britten’s own sensitive reaction to the inflections of the English language; and we heard an unsolemn, clear, and poetically illustrative manner of accompaniment, also characteristic of Britten’s music.

Britten himself was represented by the Second String Quartet, Opus 36 (written in 1945 to commemorate the two hundredth and fiftieth anniversary of Purcell’s death), and the "Songs and Proverbs of William Blake," Opus 74. […]

The Blake cycle […] is one of his best. Britten is above all an intelligent composer, and this is a great intellectual achievement, with the essence of each Song or Proverb tightly contained in the piano part, often in apparent independence of the voice, which is left free to wander through a wide range of expression. It was written for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau three years ago, and the German baritone proved yesterday how well calculated it is for his voice and his interpretative gifts. The composer himself accompanied an unforgettable performance.

Gerald Larner


     The Scotsman, Edinburgh,  30. August 1968     


Poignant account of Blake settings

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: Leith Town Hall


The Amadeus Quartet yesterday morning forsook Schubert in order to turn their attention to the other featured composer of this year’s Festival, Benjamin Britten, whose second string quartet formed the centrepiece of a programme otherwise devoted to vocal works by Purcell and Britten, in which the soloist was Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

With the instrumental work as a pivot, it was an inspired piece of programme planning, stressing Britten’s roots in the music of Purcell (even although, as it turned out, there is now some doubt whether Purcell actually wrote the cantata, "When night her purple veil", which opened the programme) and culminating in one of the most remarkable of his recent works, the Blake Songs and Proverbs, written 20 years after the quartet.


Having been caught in one of those traffic jams which this year have made Leith Town Hall even more awkward than usual to reach, I arrived too late for the start of the Purcell and heard it from one of the outside passageways - from where Mr Fischer-Dieskau’s voice still sounded very full-toned, and the music, whether or not by Purcell himself, certainly did nothing to disgrace his name.



Then, as the climax of the concert, Mr Fischer-Dieskau brought an overwhelming dark intensity to Britten’s Blake settings, an acute sensitivity to all their implications, revealing this cycle once again to be the most poignant and haunting of all his recent works for solo voice. The composer himself was the accompanist, seeming to stress - perhaps because last week’s perfomance ist still so fresh in one’s mind - the bleak "Winterreise" aspects of the music, in particular in the spine-chilling "Poison Tree", where the piano’s softly flurrying triplets that alternate with the singer’s more sustained lines were made to sound like a deliberate twentieth-century allusion to the lonely linden tree of Schubert’s cycle.

Conrad Wilson


     Zeitung unbekannt, 30. August 1968     


Brilliance of Britten

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Benjamin Britten and Amadeus Quartet.
Leith Town Hall.


Among Britten’s song-cycles there is none so profoundly disturbing as Songs and Proverbs of William Blake, written three years ago for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and performed again by him yesterday with the composer at the piano.

These bitter and sometimes corrosively a n g r y songs squarely confront the darkest aspects of the human condition, though a ray of hope is finally perceived in the affirmation that ‘God is light to those poor souls who dwell in night.’

I can imagine no more pungent, penetrating interpreter of this cycle than the German baritone, nor any account of the vivid piano part more precise and telling than Britten himself gave.

The concert began with a cantata, When Night Her Purple Veil, ascribed to Purcell, and Britten’s Second String Quartet which received a vigorous, if not very polished, performance from the Amadeus Quartet.

E. M.

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