Zu den Liederabenden am 9., 11. und 14. Mai 1987 in London


     Süddeutsche Zeitung vom 10. Juni 1987     

Germany & das Londoner Publikum

Zu einigen Veranstaltungen beim deutschen Festival


Im großen Foyer der Elizabeth Hall hängen energische Ölbilder von Fischer-Dieskaus Hand; doch sowohl Kunst- wie Musikkritiker weigerten sich verlegen, über sie ein Urteil abzugeben. Über die Herrlichkeiten einer nicht mehr jungen Baritonstimme allerdings, die in den lyrischen Stellen und in der Mittellage schöner klang als je zuvor, herrschte Einigkeit. Alle drei Konzerte – Schumann, Mahler und Hugo Wolf – waren vom ersten Tage an ausverkauft – und es war sein Londoner Publikum. Es bekam jeweils sechs Zugaben, und ein paar Leute klatschen wohl noch heute.


F. Thorn



     Die Welt, Hamburg,  vom 27. Mai 1987     

Glamour und Tiefgang: Londons Deutsches Festival

Was Beethoven hörte


"Ich kann nicht singen mehr", sang Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau aus voller Kehle. Mit diesem musikalischen Augenzwinkern lieferte er seine sechste und letzte Zugabe, die seine Fans in der vollbesetzten Queen Elizabeth Hall erklatscht hatten. Und nicht nur Deutsche, nicht nur reifere Jahrgänge hatten sich für seine Lieder von Schumann, Mahler und Hugo Wolf erwärmt. Auch Briten und viele Jugendliche waren zu seinem raren englischen Gastspiel an drei Abenden gepilgert. Während im Foyer eine Ausstellung seiner Bilder von einem sanfteren Maltalent zeugt, konnte man im Saal die glänzend von dem Pianisten Hartmut Höll unterstützte dramatische Kraft und musikalische Energie des 62jährigen bewundern. Er allein sei schon – so kommentierte eine Zeitung – die ganze Sache wert.

Die "ganze Sache" ist das Deutsche Festival, mit dem London zur Zeit strategisch bestückt ist.


Heidi Bürklin



     Financial Times, London, Datum unbekannt     

Fischer-Dieskau / Elizabeth Hall


To a rapturous welcome, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau returned to the South Bank on Saturday with a completely different programme of Schumann songs from the one advertised. The new programme had the attraction of all-Heine texts; the loss of the op. 35 Kerner songs was easy to bear, and these days the Heine Liederkreis is probably safer for Dieskau than the Eichendorff one which it replaced. Dichterliebe was a challenge.

It was one of those Fischer-Dieskau evenings with bursts of extreme vehemence in unexpected places, and dramatic variations of tone and timbre which almost amounted to "funny voice" turns. There were unprecedented stretches of tempo-pulling to make expressive points – always to an evident purpose, but I thought it was more than "Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden" can really take, and some of Dichterliebe was effectively a "Fantasy after Schumann’s Dichterliebe". And yet there was something to be learned from every phrase, even the oddest ones; and it wasn’t pedagogical experimenting, but vital, personal re-creation.

Hartmut Höll was a ceaselessly alert accompanist, as he had to be. His own single quirk was a penchant for dry, abrupt endings to songs. Occasionally he was almost caught off guard, and in a couple of the Liederkreis pieces I suspected that the downward transpositions the deepening baritone requires lay uncomfortably for the pianist’s fingers. The on-the-spot efforts and recoveries gave a live, nervy edge to the performances, enhancing what was anyway a quite riveting display by the great singer. In the foyer there is an exhibition of his paintings, until June 5 – some consolation, perhaps, for admirers who are too late to get tickets for his Wolf recital tonight and his Mahler on Thursday.

David Murray



     Zeitung und Datum unbekannt     

Hugged by a bear

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau at the Queen Elizabeth Hall


Not at all the musical events in the current Festival of German Arts show signs of having been especially conceived for the festival, and indeed some – including all-Beethoven and all-Brahms concerts by the London orchestras – seem particularly pointless. But one group of events has justified the whole undertaking: over the past week, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has returned to London for three recitals in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and has made one marvel again at the completeness of understanding and directness of communication with which he projects German song.

Fischer-Dieskau is now, amazingly, 62 years old: he looks a tall, sprightly 50-and-a-bit. The most striking thing about his lieder singing – and this is scarcely a result of age, but something that his critics have seized on for years – is its absence of purely vocal skills and its concentration on verbal technique. Time and again in last Saturday’s Schumann recital I held my breath as Fischer-Dieskau approached some musical problem – any sustained long lines are especially difficult, as are the extremes of high and low in the voice – and listened amazed as he surmounted it by pure dramatic will-power.

Of course, there are stretches of lovely singing, in which Fischer-Dieskau’s warm, mellow tone and well-supported articulation edge the music along with infinite eloquence. But even there it is the attention to the words and their structure, the perfect placing of each note within the rise and fall of the verse, that really transforms his singing fromt that of a mediocre honey-toned lieder singer to that of a great interpretative artist.

Those for whom great singing is a glorious outpouring of beautiful sound could never have loved Fischer-Dieskau, and now must do so even less. And as well as that problem, there is the recurrent problem of artificiality, the studied nature of his responses: sometimes these can seem pre-programmed, but sometimes they flower into spontaneity.

There are some things I still cannot like: I cannot take the affected blankness with staring eyes, or the half-breathes sotto voce, especially when he bursts out of either of those affections within half a line of a Schumann song.

The drama is frighteningly vivid, but is it all a little too much? Sometimes I thought that Fischer-Dieskau, with his wealth of nuance, was overburdening Schumann’s simple songs: the contrasts are too violent, the bulges of emotion too overblown. In the lesser-known of the Heine "Liederkreis" the Op. 24 set, the massive contrast between the first two lines of "Ich wandelte unter den Bäumen" as he wanders among the trees, and the second two, as the "old dreams come into my heart" is hard to justify on any terms, musical or dramatic: this is one sentence, one strophic verse. Yet other contrast are wonderfully pointed: the three notes at the end of each verse of "Lieb Liebchen" the first picturing his coffin, the second his eternal sleep. These songs sounded fresher than the Op. 48 "Dichterliebe", some of which were blustered through or driven with an over-heavy insistence ("Im Rhein, im heiligen Strome" was lugubrious).

Sometimes I wished he’d leave well alone, and just present the song without any artifice: it was as if he was grasping these tiny miniatures in a bear-hug of expressiveness and crushing them. But it is difficult to argue: like Gilels dominating a Scarlatti sonata, or Rostropovich a Bach sarabande, this music-making sets its own terms.

In the Mörike settings of Hugo Wolf, to which Fischer-Dieskau turned on Thursday evening, the scale of utterance and range of dramatic (often melodramatic) power is far wider, and correspondingly better suited to his lavish approach. Here a song like the electrifying "Der Feuerreiter" with its terrifying visions of skeletons, can take the full weight of Fischer-Dieskau’s melodramatic contortions on stage: he rarely confines himself to the corner of the piano, but strides towards us, glaring, and retreats coyly.

Here is lieder which is opera carried on by other means, and there is no greater exponent of the concert-stage opera than Fischer-Dieskau. The quieter chromatic songs ("An die Geliebte") were exquisitely moulded, the humorous one ("Abschied") relished to the last syllable. So complete was his identification with the drama I wondered for a moment if it would matter if he did not sing a note but simply declaimed.

Throughout, the piano playing of Hartmut Höll (who was born when Fischer-Dieskau was already active in the recording studio) was exceptionally sharp and vivid, less rounded than the playing of Gerald Moore, less penetrating than that of Brendel on the most recent Fischer-Dieskau recordings, but constantly responsive and alive. And throughout, too, I felt that the newly reorientated Elizabeth Hall, with audience behind the singer as well as in front, did nothing to help and something to hinder the resonance of the voice, providing nothing for the singer to bounce off or aim towards, leaving it stranded in a dry, isolated desert.

Nicholas Kenyon

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