Mozart: Lieder (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau/Daniel Barenboim)
Of Mozart’s 30 accredited lieder, this disc contains k125d-h, 340c, 468, 473, 474, 476, 506, 519, 53, 524, 530 and the cantata 619. If the word is the seed of the lied, and lyricism its natural flowering, then most of this bunch will look sterile and artificial to the lied-cultivator. Their texts derive from anything but great poetry; their aims are anything but self-expressive. So their precognitions of Schubert seem paranormal, and are usually rationalized as preechoes which were “in the air” (Capell's phrase) at the time. But perhaps these were valid causes, not just sound effects. They all occur (to my ears) onlyin those dozen songs which were first published in Vienna. And the two invariably hailed as Schubertian, Das Veilchen and Abendempfindung, were published by a Viennese house (and family) well known to Schubert. Such settings were surely seminal. lf so, Das Veilchen really was the first flower in the field, and in essence one of the most pervasive.
That paragraph of prelude to the Mozart song heralds the predictable vocal style of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau - a Classically-restrained version of the subtly-nuanced expressiveness inculcated by a lifelong devotion to the Romantic lied. But middle courses can be compromising. To the Schubertian, this Violet will seem rather colourless, the Evening Feeling decidedly cool; yet the very same shades of interpretation might strike the Mozartian as ultra-sultry. In the conventional pastoral scene, the high style is often hard to get across, especially when rushed (e.g. An Chloe); and one bar (in Gesellenlied) almost occasions an actual stumble. The inaudible phoneme is an unheard-of phenomenon in Fischer-Dieskau, and it pronounces that he is not entirely on his home ground.
Daniel Barenboim is heard playing away with his accustomed blend of delicacy and relish; flavouring with personal touches a texture which might otherwise be insipid to some tastes; bringing out the left-hand line, varying the basic tempo during interludes or postludes, and so on. These highlights are illuminating for the specialist, who can observe for example how a whispered phrase of Geheime Liebe becomes a bold statement in the first piano sonata. Even so, that song and two others (k125 d-f) were expelled from the canon in the critical reports of the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe, where they are ascribed to Leopold. Perhaps there is new evidence to justify their inclusion here; or else the umbrella description “Mozart Lieder” is held to cover the head of the family as well?
The relation of singer to pianist also raises questions. Of course they both remain supreme for beauty of tone and sensitivity of perception. For the reasons given, however, they do sometimes suggest the simultaneous performance of an 18th-cenlury sonata and a 19th-century song; and even with former tuned up and the latter down it is not altogether surprising that they have had a mixed reception. Their most lifelike presentation is arguably the least lied-like, namely the cantata Die ihr, der unermesslichen Weltalls. Here one Franz Heinrich Ziegenhagen modestly offers to act as spokesman for the Great Architect of the Universe, all plan and elevation. The composer not only accepts this text in good faith, but adds a compelling musical argument from design. He genuinely heard his own creative genius, even at its everyday level, as an image of divine order in the universe. Whatever one's personal persuasion, there is no doubt that the artistic conviction in voice and piano he performs a great service to Mozart.
The Musical Times, Jun. 1973 (p. 608) © the estate of eric sams