Zum Liederabend am 30. Oktober 1968 in New York
New York Times, 31. Oktober 1968
Fischer-Dieskau Presents Texts Of Goethe Set by 12 Composers
Perhaps the art of lieder singing is not yet ready to be written off as an anachronism. It certainly would have been hard to convince last night’s audience at Carnegie Hall of any such thing. It overflowed onto the stage to hear Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in a program of Goethe texts as set by 12 composers.
Mr. Fischer-Dieskau is, of course, this era’s paragon: highvoltage presence, vocal polish, impeccable musicianship and - well, fill out your own catalogue of excellence. It is hard to know what would have given his recital more glamorous appeal, unless it were Leonard Bernstein as the piano accompanist, and that auspicious pairing will take place next week.
Goethe’s poetry lies at the heart of the entire lieder tradition, and its range of moods is enormous, as the recital demonstrated. For this listener the peak of the night came in four Schubert songs, molded into a small, perfect cycle by Mr. Fischer-Dieskau.
Singing with a control and ripeness of voice that lieder listeners do not often hear, he moved from the brooding calm of "An den Mond" to the power of "An Schwager Kronos" to the peace of "Meeres Stille," and then delivered a stunning "Erlkönig." In the last, he not only found the required three different voices and characters for the boy, the father and the erlking, but also added a really ghastly touch by letting death sing seductively with effete, grisly grins.
Five Hugo Wolf songs, from strength to strength, and Norman Shetler’s playing of the demanding piano parts, particularly in the rippling "Frühling übers Jahr" and the scherzolike "Der Rattenfänger," helped carry the day.
Besides Wolf and Schubert, the recital investigated relative oddities by Herzogin Anna Amalia, Johann Friedrich Reichardt and Carl Friedrich Zelter, as well as songs of Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Richard Strauss, Othmar Schoeck, Max Reger and Busoni. The hooting and howling of Busoni’s "Zigeunerlied," full of werewolves and owls and witches, touched exactly the right balance of sobriety and fun, and Reger’s "Einsamkeit" left one desolate with its gray grimness.
If Mr. Fischer-Dieskau has a fault as a lieder recitalist (and there are those who would deny it), it may be his very mania for perfection: a bit too much polish in manner and interpretation obtrudes at times. One wants, even in lieder - especially in lieder - more suggestion of spontaneity.
The otherwise excellent program, by the way, omitted any mention of Goethe’s name, an odd oversight under the circumstances.