Zum Liederabend am 16. Februar 1974 in London


     The Times, London,  18. März 1974     

Fischer-Dieskau / Barenboim

Albert Hall


Though Dietrich Fischer-Dieskauís February throat infection in fact saved many of us from the schizophrenia that threatened when both he and Boris Christoff announced London recitals that same night, we still had to listen to Mr Fischer-Dieskauís postponed Schubert programme in the Albert Hall. Its advantage as venue on Saturday was in accomodating a lot of people. But size worked against the intimate rapport between singer and listener so helpful in Lieder.

A better balanced programme would have been hard to devise. The six Heine settings from the Schwanengesang at the start were complemented at the end by a group of Goethe songs, with a central miscellany salvaging one or two less familiar things, such as "Memnon", between favourites like "Der Wanderer" and "Der Einsame".

Some of the keenest pleasure came in the Goethe group, and not least because it included "An Schwager Kronos" and "Prometheus". Both these songs are of near-operatic cast, and they allowed Mr Fischer-Dieskau to project their exhilaration and drama to the remotest seat. Exuberant vitality carried him from first note to last in "An Schwager Kronos" as if in one breath, his range of colour and dynamics were invaluable in the peremptory questioning of "Prometheus". And on stroke of programme-planning was more inspired than separating these two impassioned outpourings with "Meeres Stille", where he gripped his audience just as intensely with sinister innuendoes compressed into a beautifully sustained pianissimo legato.

Daniel Barenboim played the tremendous piano part of "An Schwager Kronos" with the driving virtuosity of a concerto soloist, and all the necessary strength of sound as well. In the past Mr Barenboim has often been too reticent in Lieder. On Saturday he not only met his partner on equal terms in the bigger songs, not forgetting "Der Atlas", but also lured the ear with many softer delights in the course of "An den Mond" and "Nachtviolen", where Schubert asks even the singer to listen to the piano. Only simple figuration-type accompaniments seemed to need more significant, less modest, definition, though the hall itself took the edge off clarity of detail in pedalled pianissimo.

Joan Chissell

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