25 Essential Beethoven Recordings: The Songs

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Beethoven is believed to have written 158 songs, yet they remain a comparatively neglected aspect of the work of the world’s most celebrated composer. To be sure, many scholars will argue that the songs are among the composer's weakest material – his most sentimental, saccharine and dare we say, conventional. But there are plenty of gems in the mix, and even some innovative works that played a key role in the development of German art song.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the towering art song interpreter who died in May at age 86, recorded Beethoven’s songs several times over the course of his career. Among the most significant was a 1966 version of An die ferne Geliebte (To the distant beloved), Op. 98, which can be seen as the first real song cycle by a great composer in the sense that the six are closely interrelated.

The baritone ably captures the inward feelings of longing and consolation in this cycle, just as he delivers a heartfelt setting of the autobiographical song "An die Hoffnung" ("To Hope" - Op. 94) and a nuanced reading of three Goethe settings (Op. 83). The latter performances capture both the fundamental meaning and minutiae of Goethe's texts, as when the text reflects on how bleak the world appears when it is not refracted through eyes filled with "tears of unhappy love."

Below is the full audio recording of An die ferne Geliebte, contained on DG’s Complete Fischer-Dieskau Edition.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone
Jörg Demus, piano
Beethoven songs
Deutsche Grammophone
Available at Arkivmusic.com

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Comments [2]

EDWARD ALBERT from Manhattan

In the 1950's, Dieskau and pianist Hertha Klust recorded many Beethoven songs. Magical performances, bringing each song to life with beauty of sound and flexibility of line. http://www.amazon.com/Beethoven-Lieder-Ludwig-van/dp/B000003XIZ

Dec. 01 2012 09:42 AM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

DIETRICH FISCHER-DIESKSAU accomplished in his lifetime a thorough-going well-executed tourne of all the LIED masterpieces of the romantics, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Wolf and Wagner. What Lotte Lehmann, Elizabeth Schumann, Alexander Kipnis, Heinrich Schlusnus, Roland Hayes, Kathleen Ferrier, Aksel Schiotz and other notables before him accomplished to a great degree, he blanketed the entire LIED oeuvre and what's more his musicianship and dramatic word nuancing brought definitive recorded performance to enhance our pleasure and knowledge of a format now largely neglected. Beethoven's symphonies, opera, concertos, sonatas, string quartets, overtures, chamber music generally , and song literature, is so pervasive and his world consciousness and basic humanity construct an icon unparalleled to and past his own era. At Juilliard, I studied his oeuvre and , in those days, all singers learned the concert rep of Beethoven , Schubert , Schumann, Wolf and Grieg, whether they would be opera singers or concert singers . So much of our treasured masterpieces, vocal and instrumental, are unknown quantities to most Americans. THANK YOU WQXR FOR CELEBRATING BEETHOVEN !!! Wagner and his contemporaries and their successors all recognized the epic achievement of Beethoven. I am a romantischer Wagnerian heldentenor and director of the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute at 418A Main Street, Boonton, NJ . I have sung four solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall. As part of my Ten Language Solo Debut concert at the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall, I sang the Gott ! welch dunkel hier ! aria of Fidelio. it can be heard from the live performance on my three websites, one of which is www.WagnerOpera.com It received rave critical notices in newspapers and magazines. Among the greatest singers famous for their Beethoven performances in opera and concert my voice teachers Alexander Kipnis, Friedrich Schorr, Martial Singher, John Brownlee, Karin Branzell and Margarete Matzenauer. Other famous singers with extensive Beethoven "rep" were Flagstad, Roswaenge, Battistini, Julius Patzak, Birgit Nilsson, Gerhardt Huesch, Herbert Janssen, Gottlob Frick, Rose Bampton, Set Svanholm, Wolfgang Windgassen, Gustav Neidlinger, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Christa Ludwig, Walter Berry, Gwyneth Jones, Astrid Varnay, Marjorie Lawrence, Rosa Raisa, Ludwig Hoffmann, Jerome Hines, Josef Greindl, Paul Plishka, Jon Vickers, Margaret Harshaw, Eleanor Steber Irene Jessner, Rene Maison, Ramon Vinay, Deszo Ernster, Ferdinand Frantz, Jean and Eduard de Reszke, Regina Resnik, Blanche Thebom, Florence Austral, Leonie Rysanek, George London, Emmy Destinn, Frieda Leider, Eileen Farrell, Jean Madeira, Emmanuel List, Gota Ljungberg, Elizabeth Rethberg, Heinrich Schlusnus, Lotte Lehmann, Lawrence Tibbett, Leonard Warren, Helen Traubel and Ludwig Weber.

Nov. 24 2012 07:44 AM

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About Beethoven Awareness Month

No composer impacted the course of Western music like Ludwig van Beethoven. The events of his life are the stuff of Romantic legend, his works permeate concert halls and he remains a cultural icon outside of classical music, turning up in movies, TV soundtracks, commercials and pop songs. Throughout November, WQXR celebrates Beethoven's work through concert broadcasts, multimedia projects, marathons and other features.

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