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Hugo Wolf: Der Genesene an die Hoffnung – In der Frühe – Fussreise – Neue Liebe – Der Feuerreiter – Jägerlied – Storchenbotschaft – Verborgenheit – Im Frühling – Auf einer Wanderung – An die Geliebte – Peregrina I – Peregrina II – Lebe wohl – Begegnung – Der Jäger – Bei einer Trauung – Abschied
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Baritone), Sviatoslav Richter (Piano)
Live recording: Stadthaus, Innsbruck, Austria (October 1973) – 53’35”
Hybrid Super Audio Compact Disc Pentatone #PTC 5186 219 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Essays in English and German

It is hard to overstate the impact Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau had on the genre of Lied. Not only was his a voice uniquely suited to the intimacy of the repertoire, but the emotional intelligence with which he inhabited this music has rarely been equaled. Furthermore, the breadth of his recording catalogue is awe-inspiring still today. And while the most revered composers, Schubert and Schumann, received more than their fair share of recordings from Fischer-Dieskau, the German baritone gave more obscure composers the same brilliant treatment that he gave to Schubert. In this release, Pentatone has remastered the live Deutsche Grammophon recording that has long been a reference recording for me of the great Hugo Wolf’s Lieder.

The poetry of Edward Mörike is often considered some of the most ideal of those Wolf set to music, including some of his most popular songs such as Fussreise and Verborgenheit. In his Mörike Lieder, Wolf pushed the tonal language of romantic Lieder to its limit with chromatic melodies and dense, atmospheric accompaniments that often rival the voice part in their expressiveness.

Unsurprisingly, Fischer-Dieskau brings a masterful vitality to this music. The naturalness through which he inhabits these sounds is captivating. And lest this be all about romantic angst and longing, Fischer-Dieskau sings virtuosic songs like Der Jäger and Storchenbotschaft at a dazzling pace; the aforementioned Fussreise is charming in its idyllic intimacy. Fischer-Dieskau never fails to provide anything but an enveloping performance, rooted in his incomparable textual delivery.

Lebe wohl, a less than three minute mini-opera of a song, is a prime example of Fischer-Dieskau’s abilities, not only dramatically, but technically. Captured in 1973, the voice is fresh and piercing. His dynamic range is breathtakingly captured, with the ends of phrases lingering impossibly in the air, and, while his was never considered a particularly stentorian voice, the ascending climax of the song is shattering in both volume and potency.

Fischer-Dieskau’s collaborator, Sviatoslav Richter is a luxurious asset and his contribution is staggering. The demanding accompaniments demand not only the highest virtuosity, but an impeccable understanding of the pregnant drama contained in each piece. Richter is nothing short of Fischer-Dieskau’s equal in this regard.

And one of the joys of this remastering is how vivid both are captured. This live recording is airy, with plenty of ambient noise captured. In fact, one can hear the famed baritone lightly clear his throat after every song. But this atmosphere only serves to heighten the artistic occasion of this performance.

At a budget price, with a gorgeous remastering, if there is a complaint to be had, it must be that there are no translations included. The included booklet includes a thoughtful essay, but with so many songs of such rich and (relatively) obscure poetry, translations are a necessity. But never fear. Fischer-Dieskau, perhaps the greatest vocal communicator of the 20th century, more than makes up for this oversight and the great Hugo Wolf, who ends his Abschied with a raucous waltz, receives a spectacular tribute.

Matthew Richard Martinez




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