Frühe Goethe-Lieder (Fischer-Dieskau/Demus)


Fischer-Dieskau/ Demus. Archive

Reichardt: Gott; Feiger Gedanken; Die schöne Nacht; Einziger Augenblick; Einschränkung; Mut; Rhapsodie; An Lotte; Tiefer liegt die Nacht um mich her. Zelter: Rastlose Liebe; Um Mitternacht; Gleich und Gleich; Wo geht's Liebchen.  Sachsen-Weimar: Auf dem Land; Sie scheinen zu spielen. Seckendorff: Romanze. Neefe: Serenate. Beethoven: Mit Mädeln sich vertragen. Kreutzer: Ein Bettler vor dem Tor. Hummel: Zur Logenfeier. Arnim: schaudre nicht. Wagner:Lied des Mephistopheles; Branders Lied.

For the benefit of non-jargon-speaking readers it should be explained that “früh” means “written at any time between 1776 and 1832 but excluding all Mozart, Schubert, Loewe and Mendelssohn and almost all-Beethoven”. The title “Lesser Lights of the Lied” would have made up in accuracy what it lacks in commercial appeal.

    The sleeve note suggests that this motley medley may be meant to mirror Goethe's own insistence (which for some reason is often taken very seriously, despite its manifest Philistinism) that musical settings should be deliberately designed to show off his poetic gems. But those on display here are rarely of the first water; and some are paste. Nor can the settings be of the finest if the voices of Mignon and, Gretchen have to remain unheard. The Hammerflügel however is heard throughout, though it should surely have been waived for Wagner at least. The 18th-century drawing room is hardly the juste milieu for any of his Faust music; and Auerbach’s cellar in particular is a long way below stairs. Least satisfactory of all, it seems to me, is the undue attention paid to dubious arrangements (Beethoven as well as Wagner) and to what might be called the Liedermeier school (Kreutzer, Hummel) with such undistinguished old boys and girls as the “artistic-minded dilettante” von Seckendorff and the “educated women” Anna von Sachsen­Weimar and Bettina von Arnim. Of all recorded sounds, that of scraping the barrel is surely one of the least attractive.

    On the credit side (mainly side 1) there is much agreeable music always beautifully sung and often brilliantly played. In particular the two old Kapellmeister Reichardt and Zelter are very properly placed on record here as being admirable composers in their own right. They would not otherwise have earned their historical place as precursors of the lied; ex nihilo nihil fit for publication. But those listeners who feel as I do that by and large Schubert's petty forbears are pretty fair bores will find this disc too one-sided to offer lasting value.

The Musical Times, Oct. 1974