Zum Liederabend am 15. Juni 1992 in London

     The Times, London 17. Juni 1992     

Vigour of a veteran

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Barbican


THEY knew that an encore would not be forthcoming; at the end of a cycle like Schubert's Die Schone Mullerin it seldom is. Yet seven times he returned to the platform, and they stood and applauded as if there might indeed be no tomorrow.

As Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau enters his 68th year the applause, unlike that for many an equally determined but less prudent artist, is never for past achievements alone. This was an audience at times transfixed by what it heard, and genuinely moved by a self-renewing encounter with a cycle he had first sung 40 years ago. A few years back, Fischer-Dieskau declared that Die Schone Mullerin the tale of a passionate and unrequited infatuation for the miller's fair daughter was a young man's cycle and he would stop singing it. The change of heart might have been attributed to vanity or sheer defiance. But here, as with his still developing Winterreise, it seemed that there was a clear artistic challenge to be met. Here was the archetype of the ageless Wanderer: arrogant, self-doubting, self-reproaching and finally lulled to sleep in an elemental vision of broader horizons.

There was, of course, a real technical challenge too. At times there would be a subtle adjustment in which an interpretative nuance would be made out of the need for time to sculpt a line accurately. At times, too, something approaching a savage Sprechgesang would surface. Through it all Christoph Eschenbach mediated and modified with finely tuned sensitivity at the piano.

After the glimpse of the dastardly rival Huntsman, Fischer-Dieskau tuned his artistry to another key. All colour was drained from a line barely moving yet nervously alive in ''Faded flowers''. ''The Miller and the Stream'' became a requiem for love, sung in half-voice in tender dialogue. The final lullaby of the brook saw Fischer-Dieskau with eyes closed, at one with its rocking rhythm, momentarily disquieted by the hunting horn yet drawing the performance together with a resolution that sealed its uncompromised authority. 

Hilary Finch

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