Nothing on this record is finer than "Der Doppelganger". Once Fischer-Dieskau used to make the climax sensational: there is wisdom in his new restraint. I have not heard a greater performance of the song.
Fischer-Dieskau recorded the six Heine songs of Schwanengesang early in his career (HMV mono ALP1066, 10/53—nla) and he also recorded the complete group for EMI in the early sixties (HMV ASD544, 9/63 – nla) and later for DG in the seventies, always with Gerald Moore. This version signals yet another decade of devotion to some of the finest of all Schubert's songs.
There can be no other singer whose career has been so richly documented on the gramophone, and it is a cause for gratitude to theRead more medium that it can allow us to hear this number of different interpretations by the same magisterial artist. For these are indeed different interpretations, not the same one modified to accommodate the evolution of a voice and its necessary loss of some powers. To compare some of Fischer-Dieskau's early, middle and recent recordings is to be made aware that in some important respects he is now a greater singer than he has ever been. Gone, of course, is the golden effulgence of tone, the seemingly inexhaustible physical capacity. Yet the voice is still an instrument of astonishing beauty; and with the years has come not only an everdeepening interpretative insight but also a constantly renewing appreciation of what the voice, at each stage of his career, can bring to a song.
There are, inevitably, songs in which one misses the glory of the former sound: "Der Atlas" is a rare example, here, of a song in which the sheer power of the earlier interpretations cannot really be replaced. But in other songs, the old, almost spendthrift outpouring of tone did not take one as close to their essence. "In der Ferne", an undistinguished poem of Rens-tab's that presumably caught Schubert's ear partly for its subject but also for its oddly reiterated rhythm, needs not merely steadiness of line: the obsessive dotted-note figure must stand, laconically, for the inexorable passage of the fugitive away from light and warmth. The control of the slow tempo, and of how little, rather than how much, makes the song's effect, is wonderfully moving; Brendel's quiet, almost shocked utterance of the heavy chords of the first verse beautifully matches this idea. It is enthralling to hear him in Lieder: his intelligence, his intellectual grasp of the interpretative aspect of a song as Fischer-Dieskau now approaches it, makes him an incomparable partner here. It may be that he over-subtilizes, makes too abstract, the cheerful bounce of "Abschied" and underlines the wistfulness of "Der Taubenpost" rather than allowing this to be implied as a poignant contrast to the merriment of the rhythm: I miss Gerald Moore here, but then I always shall. Nevertheless, there is something freezing about the very distancing he contrives for the diminished-seventh shiver at the start of "Die Stadt": the "feuchter Windzug", the "whiff of damp wind", breathes a chill not only on the water but into the soul.
Nothing on this record is finer than "Der Doppelganger". The slowness of the pace is something that only the very greatest artistry, from singer and pianist alike, could attempt. Brendel states the grave chords with a pallor of tone that seems emptied out even of horror; and on them Fischer-Dieskau lays the slow melody greyly, with a shocked frigidity. Once he used to make the climax sensational: there is wisdom in this new restraint. I have not heard a greater performance of the song.