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Subject: Re: Favorite non operatic Vocal pieces
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 26 Feb 2018 09:15:13 -0800

text/plain (56 lines)

The funny thing is that I have trouble NOT thinking of the Verdi Requiem as an opera.

Speaking of non-operatic vocal literature, I have to put in a comment on Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. He made so many recordings, including into a period where his voice had noticeably dried out, that many may have forgotten (or be unaware of) the superb quality of the voice and art when he was at his best. He was my introduction to a wealth of song literature and seeing him perform “Die Winterreise” live was one of the great experiences of my life. After all I had heard about his “small” voice, I was surprised by the power and force of his singing in that performance, as I was in several recitals of Schubert songs I saw him do after that (the “Winterreise” was in 1971).

For me, his best decade on record, is roughly between 1955 and 1965. This is the period when his voice was at its peak and his art had reached maturity without yet going over the edge into fussiness and over-refinement. I find my own favorites of his recordings are the early stereo ones: of Wolf songs (particularly the Eichendorff Lieder set for EMI with Gerald Moore), the early 60s “Die Schöne Müllerin” (also with Moore on EMI) and the “Winterreise” recorded for DGG with Jorg Demus (whose clear and incisive playing I greatly prefer to Moore on the several recordings he and DFD made together of this cycle).

I still consider his mono 1952 recording of the Mahler “Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen” the reference recording. It also gives a tantalizing peek at what Furtwängler might have done as a Mahler conductor, since we have nothing else (I know of) on record. Interestingly, this came at the end of a recording marathon in London in June 1952 for Furtwängler. He had just completed the “Tristan und Isolde” recording and an “Immolation Scene” with Flagstad, both produced by Legge (and both apparently pushing Furtwängler into a state of nervous exhaustion; some say that his health never recovered). At the very end, these Mahler sessions were undertaken (Fischer-Dieskau having been on the scene for the “Tristan” recording), also in Kingsway Hall but with a different producer, Lawrence Collingwood. The sound of the “Tristan” is impressive for its time, in terms of successfully capturing large masses of sound, but the “Mahler” songs have a clarity that is extraordinary for 1952. Perhaps the difference in the size of the orchestra, or the musical writing itself, or perhaps Collingwood. In any case, it’s a mono recording that stands alongside the best of the early Mercury Living Presence series.

While I always maintained a first place preference for the Walter/Ferrier “Das Lied von der Erde,” Fischer-Dieskau had a way of making those songs sound as though they were meant to be sung by him. I find his singing on the 1959 Kletzki recording superb in every regard, and it enables me to tolerate the less pleasant tenor of Murray Dickie. A few years later, he participated in a powerful production in Vienna under Leonard Bernstein. The recorded  sound still packs a wallop. However, I found that under Bernstein he was more prone to exaggeration (always the danger element with DFD) and, even though he is profoundly touching in much of the writing, I prefer the earlier performance under Kletzki.

The voice itself was always something of an unusual “mezzo-tenor.” In much of the song literature, in particular, he would easily traverse what seemed like the full baritone and a significant amount of the tenor range. Two particularly striking examples of this (and beautiful recordings) are two albums of Schumann songs he made in the early 60s. One for EMI with the Op. 39 “Liederkreis” with Moore and another, with Demus, for DGG of the “Dichterliebe.” Sublime recordings of compelling story telling, beautiful singing and elite musical art.

In fact, Otto Klemperer, known for sharp and sometimes edgily witty comments, got DFD’s goat while they were recording the Bach St. Matthew Passion. At one point, he broke to tell Fischer-Dieskau: “You must be a fantastic Eisenstein.” Huh? “Because your voice sounds so tenorish.”

A diversion onto Klemperer’s sharp wit. The one person who countered effectively was Callas, when Walter Legge introduced her to the conductor in the late 50s.

Klemperer: “Good to meet you, Mme. Callas. I saw you twice. As Norma, excellent. As Iphigenie, terrible. But I’m sure Walter will want you to sing something with the Philharmonia. What might you like?”

Callas (smiling radiantly): “The arias from “Iphigenie”, maestro.”

Max Paley

> On Feb 26, 2018, at 8:51 AM, R PRADA <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> I have to add Verdi Requiem
> Rossini Stabat
> Vivaldi Gloria
> Sent from my iPhone
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