Zum Konzert am 23. November 1968 in New York

New York Times, 23. November 1968

Fischer-Dieskau Shifts His Style

Drops Lieder for Purcell, Fauré and Ravel Program

In his several appearances here this season Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has confined himself to German lieder. Last night he broke away, in an unusual program that he shared with the Juilliard Quartet at Hunter College Assembly Hall.

He sang a Purcell cantata, "When Night Her Purple Veil," and Fauré’s song cycle "La Bonne Chanson." A Purcell Pavane-Chaconne for strings preceded the cantata; Ravel’s Quartet in F preceded the Fauré.

It was an evening of extraordinary sensibility. Every work had the utmost refinement and beauty, although there the similarity between the English and French scores ended.

In the subtle variations of Purcell’s instrumental piece and the utterly charming musical comment on the text of the cantata (man loses nymph to satyr and decides it doesn’t matter), the creative process is directed toward formal and ideational ends.

In the Ravel and Fauré scores the sensuous element predominates, lushly in the quartet, with a classical restraint in the song cycle. It is true that they are carefully structured, but the play of color, the suavity of line, are outstanding.

At Home in Other Styles

Principal interest, of course, centered on Mr. Fischer-Dieskau’s singing. His colleagues, the members of the quartet and Norman Shetler, the pianist, were just as important and just as good, but what they did was more of a known quantity.

The German baritone proved to be almost as much at home in the English and French styles as he is in German. There was, naturally, the same sensitivity to a musical phrase, to the relationship of word to music, to the recreation of a specific mood.

Most of the ornaments and bits of fioriture in the Purcell were exquisitely handled; a few sounded rough or glossed over. And in the Fauré, one could only fault the singer on not quite having the kind of forward, nimble projection of words that is special to the best interpreters of French music. In every other way the singing was superb.

The playing of the Juilliard Quartet in the Purcell chaconne has a kind of brooding intensity that was exceptionally moving, while in the Ravel the ensemble seemed to stretch the work to the limits of its coloristic possibilities. It was a tour de force yet all in the interest of expressivity.

In its playing for Mr. Fischer-Dieskau there was a much rapport with him as there was between the individual members of the quartet. Mr. Shetler’s pianism was polished and discreet. It isn’t often New Yorkers get to hear a top-notch singer and string quartet on the same program. Those who were present were indeed fortunate.

Raymond Ericson

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