Zum Liederabend am 19. August 1984 in Edinburgh

The Guardian, 21. August 1984 


He hasn’t been to Edinburgh for years, but it is the same Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, proving a bigger attraction for the festival audience than the last five orchestral concerts and, in spite of the size of the Usher Hall, communicating with his audience on the most intimate level.

It is true that the voice is not as seductive as it was, that the control of its colour is not as fine as it was, and that his intonation is not as precise. There were occasions, as at the beginning of the second half and in one of his four encores, when he remained tonally adrift for a whole stanza or more.

On the other hand, there is probably not one other singer in the world who could begin a Brahms recital in these conditions with the delicate setting of Mörike’s Aeolian Harp and immediately attune the mass ear to the most subtle poetic inflections and erotic suggestions.

There are few singers who would devote themselves to nothing but a Brahms programme anyway: Schubert and Schumann are both more obviously attractive, Wolf apparently more sensitive and certainly more amusing. But Fischer-Dieskau’s recital was an invaluable reminder about not under-estimating Brahms.

Only one of the 20 or so songs in his chronological survey could be considered unimaginatively sentimental and only one of them crudely humourous, while where was a Daumer setting of understated but profound psychological insight; a Heine boat trip past an eerily atmospheric island, another Heine setting of elusive charm as a throwaway ending to the recital.

Hartmut Höll, who accompanied, was evidently not as aware as the singer of everey shade of meaning in the music, but their partnership was well-prepared for balance and ensemble, and they were never far apart emotionally.

Gerald Larner

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