Question: When is a soloist a greater accompanist than a great accompanist?
Answer: When he's a great, great pianist. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau had recorded all of these songs before, some of them three or four times. What can the capo da tutti capo of German baritones -- the man whose manner, voice, and interpretations defined the art of Lieder singing for his time -- have to say in yet one more recording of the deathless Totengräbers Heimweh? Plenty, because his accompanist is Sviatoslav Richter, the great, great pianist. Although past the peak of his tone when this recording was made on August 29, 1977, Fischer-Dieskau was still at the height of his interpretive depths. And he was ready to respond to Richter, who takes him higher and deeper than he'd ever gone before, up in the airborne Die Vögel and down to the grave and beyond in Totengräbers Heimweh. The audience's hushed but ecstatic applause matched the song's radiantly rapturous close. And of course, Richter could play Gerald Moore -- the man who worked as Fischer-Dieskau's usual accompanist and was beyond all argument the greatest accompanist of all time -- under the table. Nothing against Moore: Richter could play any pianist under the table. But unlike soloists who believe that lowering the lid will instantly make them an accompanist, Richter can do things to a piano -- things with resonance in the upper registers, with sustain in the central register, and with rich, rolling waves in the bass -- that make him not a pianist, but Fischer-Dieskau's intimately personal orchestra. Listen to their Die Sterne. Has a breathless belief and endless faith ever before been so well expressed? Their whole recital is that good.