For fans of Gustav Mahler's lieder and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's singing, this Audite disc of a 1971 Berlin concert will likely be thrilling. There are 17 well-known and less well-known songs that span the Austrian fin de siècle composer's career, and generally the emphasis is on youth. The early song cycle Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen is included, along with seven of Des Knaben Wunderhorn songs and three of the Lieder und Gesänge aus der Jugendzeit, but only two of the Rückert lieder and none of the Kindertotenlieder. For Mahler, the program is relatively cheerful and death is mentioned in only about a third of the songs. The performances show Fischer-Dieskau just the tiniest bit past his prime vocally, but at his peak interpretively, and there are moments here as magical as anything he ever recorded. If his combination of control, subtlety, and intensity in "Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen" doesn't get you, his astounding legato lines will. The then-young pianist Daniel Barenboim, who seems almost telepathically synchronized with Fischer-Dieskau, is with the great German baritone every step of the way. The disc does have two drawbacks. First, the live sound is dim and distant, though sufficiently dedicated fans probably won't mind. Second, Fischer-Dieskau has recorded many of these songs many times, and while these are superlative performances, they do not surpass, for example, the singer's earliest recording of the Gesellen lieder with Furtwängler. The quality of the performances, though, will likely make this disc mandatory listening for fans.
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AllMusic Review by James Leonard