Elisabeth Schwarzkopf / Edwin Fischer

Schubert: Lieder

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This compilation of 12 Lieder and Six Moments Musicaux performed by soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and pianist Edwin Fischer is old-fashioned in every sense of the word. Recorded in 1950 and 1952, the sound is old-fashioned: clear but distant, heard across all the intervening decades as if through a dark glass. But, more significantly, the performances are old-fashioned. The slight but sweet quiver in Schwarzkopf's voice was typical of its time but unlike anything any contemporary soprano would attempt. In the An die Musik, she flirts with preciousness. In Im Frühling, she comes close to coyness. In Ganymed, she touches on parody. In Gretchen am Spinnrade, she almost but not quite distorts the music with her breathless delivery. And in every performance, Schwarzkopf seems fond of Schubert but not unreservedly fond, as if Schubert's songs needed special pleading to make them succeed, a truly old-fashioned approach compared to the unreservedly affectionate performances of contemporary singers. Similarly, Edwin Fischer's playing is equally old-fashioned, albeit in an entirely different way. Fischer obviously loves Schubert's music and his playing is warm-hearted and true. Unfortunately, Fischer's playing is technically old-fashioned. He drops notes, slurs lines, fudges arpeggios, and smudges rhythms in a manner that no contemporary pianist would dare let stand in a recording. Whether this approach works depends on the listener. Older listeners full of nostalgia for a time long since past will no doubt love it. Younger listeners with no tolerance for sentimentality may have trouble accepting it.

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