Zum Liederabend am 8. April 1990 in London


     Financial Times, London, 10. April 1990     


Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau; Queen Elizabeth Hall


You will never find an audience that sits as silently as one at a recital by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Not a breath of air was to be heard at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as he caressed the beginning of Brahms's 'Wie bist du, meine Konigin' - one of seven encores that evening and a piece of singing so withdrawn and intense that the audience was held in rapt concentration to the final bar.

The eminent German baritone was in London throughout last week for what is becoming an annual series of three recitals. (The dates for 1991 have already been announced.) Any doubts that, at 66, he will still be in a fit state of vocal health to appear can be set promptly aside. The voice is growing old with the dignity of an elder statesman, no longer soft and smooth as it was in youth, but threaded with silver, eloquent and wise. The old charge that he neglects a simple legato line holds good. The songs tend to proceed in fits and starts with sudden bursts of emphasis; but in his later years Fischer-Dieskau has found a freedom in his singing that gives the impression he is improvising the effects as he goes along. At his most inspired he seems to take the listener by the hand and lead him deep into the secret heart of a song that has lain untouched before.

In Thursday's recital the single work was Brahms's Die schone Magelone. In comparison with the performance that he gave of the cycle at Salzburg back in 1964, recently issued on disc, the singing here was unsettled and inclined to hover dangerously close to the extremes of intensity that the music can bear. But how easy it was to forgive him when a song like 'Wie soll ich die Freude' would suddenly plunge into such depths of inner feeling.

On Sunday he turned his attention to Wolf with no less concentrated results. A world of hushed sweetness and concealed passion was compressed into 'Benedeit die sel'ge Mutter'. In a selection from the Morike Lieder 'Nimmersatte Liebe' came across with a marvellously judged wry wisdom and the scampering lines of 'Begegnung' ran fast and loose with a freedom that might well have thrown an accompanist less expert than Hartmut Holl.

There has never been anything comfortable or complacent about an evening with Fischer-Dieskau and these days he is even more urgently intent that no moment should be let slip for the listener's mind to coast along. Everything is important. The wonder is that at this stage of his career the singer still has a voice with so limitless a capacity for expression within his power.

Richard Fairman

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