Monday, January 16, 2012


Today, I'd like to share some recent listening and watching I've done on YouTube with you.

First is a performance of Schumann's song, "Mondnacht" (Moonlit Night) by German baritone, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

Fischer-Dieskau was one of the great singers of the 20th century and the most-recorded baritone in history. He was a master at interpreting the German Lied (song).  Coupled with a fanatical dedication to the poetry of the text, he possessed a ravishingly pure and focused voice that he could manipulate to bring out the meaning of the lines he was singing.

In "Mondnacht", you'll hear his beautiful, long-breathed legato and gentle phrase endings. If you need something to relax you after a hectic day, just listen to this.  You don't even need to know German to get the mood.

There are several versions of him singing this song.  I like this older one with pianist Gunther Weissenborn. Fischer-Dieskau's voice sounds more fresh and pure in this one.

There is another one with Christoph Eschenbach that is just as good, and perhaps offers a more nuanced interpretation.  This one also has a very clever, minimalist graphic to it.  German readers will notice that it takes the lines of the poem and creates a new poem by the end.

Vladimir Horowitz

Horowitz was known for giving larger than life performances of the big Romantic concertos and other works for piano.  Here he takes a very simple piece, Schumann's Arabesque and interprets it with great subtlety.

The piece is structured in six sections -- an "A" section that returns twice, interspersed with two contrasting episodes and finishes with a short coda. 

Notice what Horowitz does with the "A" sections!  The first time the theme is presented very clearly and simply.  When the "A" section returns, he adds nuance with more ebb and flow to the tempo.  His playing here exhibits a graceful and tasteful use of rubato. You may want to keep time with your foot or finger to see how and when he bends the tempo.

When the "A" section returns for the final time, it sounds distant, like a reminiscence.  It sounds like a romantic memory from the past.

Now for some non-musical inspiration!

Since today we observe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday today, I thought I'd include a link to one of his most inspirational writings, the "Letter from a Birmingham Jail".


  1. I generally don't like the german Lieder to be sung by Tenors, but I recently found Fritz Wunderlich through Spotify. He had me spellbound through the whole Dicherliebe!

  2. Wunderlich is amazing and Dichterliebe is one of his best interpretations. There is a Deutsche Grammophon recording that's great, but an even better live version from the 1966 Edinburgh Festival.

    Find this one if you can and treasure it!