OP2553. DOKTOR FAUST, Live Performance, 13 Nov., 1959, Royal Festival Hall, London (w.BBC Commentary),
w.Boult Cond. London Phil. Ensemble; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Richard Lewis, Heather Harper, John Cameron & Ian Wallace; ARLECCHINO, recorded 1954, w.Pritchard Cond. Glyndebourne Festival Ensemble; Kurt Gester, Ian Wallace, Geraint Evans, Fritz Ollendorff, Elaine Malbin & Murray Dickie; Boult Cond. London Phil: Comedy Overture, 1962; Toscanini Cond. NBC S.O., 10 Dec, 1949: Berceuse élégiaque; Rondo Arlecchino (all Busoni). (Canada) 3-Immortal Performances IPCD 1017. Transfers by Richard Caniell. Essays by Robert Matthew-Walker & Richard Caniell. - 713757441506
“For anyone interested in historical performances of Busoni, this release should be snapped up right away . . . DOKTOR FAUST is a work of remarkable tension and drama. It does not take long to recognize we are in the presence of a first rate piece. ARLECCHINO is a lighter piece, full of wit and good spirits . . . . Busoni’s melodic invention is everywhere present. Immortal Performances has placed the libretto for both operas online where you can download and print them . . .a great release, then. We owe a debt of thanks to Immortal Performances.”
- Paul Althouse, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, July / Aug., 2012
“Fisher-Dieskau is the Faust of one’s dreams . . . nothing short of titanic, seething with volcanic vocal power and passionate commitment that fully scales the heights and depths of Faust’s rise and fall. By comparison, his studio version with Leitner is more temperate, even a bit tepid, as if every I and T were conscientiously dotted and crossed.
Richard Lewis is a magnificent Mephistopheles . . . he matches Fisher-Dieskau at every step in both the depth and fervor of his characterization. This is far and away the best Mephistopheles on disc.
The recent London Philharmonic single CD omits almost 50 minutes of the original broadcast: presumably this is all that survived in the BBC Archives. For its complete issue, Immortal Performances has drawn on private sources . . . generally the sound is that of a reasonably clear, full-frequency monaural broadcast . . . the Immortal Performances issue is less heavily filtered than the LPO, which is all to the good.
Boult leads a performance that bristles and crackles with energy and tension, while moving seamlessly from episode to episode with masterfully gauged choices of tempi, pointed rhythmic verve and superb balance between various choirs of the orchestra and vocal forces . . . this is now arguably the preferred recording of the opera . . . definitely a finalist for my 2012 ‘Want List’. It is urgently recommended as an imperative addition to any collection of 20th century music.”
- James A. Altena, FANFARE, May / June, 2012
“Here we are hearing the complete broadcast [of DOKTOR FAUST], which was not the case with the recent London Philharmonic Orchestra issue (LPO 0056) offering but 74 minutes . . . Reviewing the LPO issue, I rated Boult’s direction as haphazard and contrasted it unfavorably with Leitner DG commercial recording. Heard at length (over 2 hours in the Immortal Performances release), Sir Adrian Boult’s way with the score is gripping and divinatory.”
ARLECCHINO is Busoni at his most rapid, allusive and sarcastic, qualities requiring a sure fire performance to put it over. By a curious chance, the first of its few recordings has remained its finest, that is its most sharply etched and scintillant. Caniell’s transfer is well done, a labor of love in fact, and ARLECCHINO is DOKTOR FAUST’s appropriate complement.
Immortal Performances has made the librettos available on-line while providing detailed synopses in their booklet. The discs are extensively cued. For the skimming eye, not merely enthusiastically recommended but urged upon you.”
- Adrian Corleonis, FANFARE, May/June, 2012
“Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was by virtual acclamation one of the world’s great singers, from the 1940s to his official retirement in 1992, and an influential teacher and orchestra conductor for many years thereafter. He was also a formidable industry, making hundreds of recordings that pretty much set the modern standard for performances of lieder, the musical settings of poems first popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. But he was essentially a lyrical, introspective singer whose effect on listeners was not to nail them to their seat backs, but rather to draw them into the very heart of song.
The pianist Gerald Moore, who accompanied many great artists of the postwar decades, said Mr. Fischer-Dieskau had a flawless sense of rhythm and ‘one of the most remarkable voices in history — honeyed and suavely expressive’. Onstage he projected a masculine sensitivity informed by a cultivated upbringing and by dispiriting losses in World War II: the destruction of his family home, the death of his feeble brother in a Nazi institution, induction into the Wehrmacht when he had scarcely begun his voice studies at the Berlin Conservatory.
He had the good luck to age well, too. In 1988, at 62, he sang an all-Schumann program at Carnegie Hall, where people overflowed onto the stage to hear him. Donal Henahan, then the chief music critic of The New York Times, noted that Mr. Fischer-Dieskau’s voice had begun to harden in some difficult passages — but also that he was tall and lean and handsomer than ever, and had lost none of his commanding presence. Mr. Fischer-Dieskau described in his memoir REVERBERATIONS (1989) how his affinity for lieder had been formed in childhood. ‘I was won over to poetry at an early age’, he wrote. ‘I have been in its thrall all my life because I was made to read it, because it gave me pleasure, and because I eventually came to understand what I was reading’. He discerned, he said, that ‘music and poetry have a common domain, from which they draw inspiration and in which they operate: the landscape of the soul’.
Before adolescence Dietrich was inducted into a Hitler Youth group where, he recalled years later, he was appalled by the officiousness as well as by the brutality. His father died when he was 12. And he had just finished secondary school and one semester at the Berlin Conservatory when, in 1943, he was drafted into the Wehrmacht and assigned to care for army horses on the Russian front. He kept a diary there, calling it his ‘attempt at preserving an inner life in chaotic surroundings’.
Instead of returning to the disastrous campaign in Russia, he was diverted to Italy, along with thousands of other German soldiers. There, on 5 May, 1945, just three days before the Allies accepted the German surrender, he was captured and imprisoned. It turned out to be a musical opportunity: soon the Americans were sending him around to entertain other P.O.W.’s from the back of a truck. The problem was, they were so pleased with this arrangement that they kept him until June 1947. He was among the last Germans to be repatriated.
Because of his youth, Mr. Fischer-Dieskau had been in no position to make his own choices in the 1930's and ’40s, so he didn’t encounter the questions about Nazi ties that hung over many a prominent German artist after the war.
Mr. Fischer-Dieskau gave his first professional lieder recital in Leipzig in the fall of 1947. Success followed success, with lieder performances in Britain and other European countries, beginning in 1949. He first toured the United States in 1955, choosing for his New York début to sing Schubert’s demanding WINTERREISE cycle without intermission.
He had made his opera début in 1948, singing Posa in Verdi’s DON CARLOS at Berlin’s Städtische Oper (later renamed the Deutsche Oper), where he was hired as principal lyric baritone. He also sang regularly at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and appeared frequently in the opera houses of Vienna, Covent Garden, Salzburg and Bayreuth.
Versatility was not the least of Mr. Fischer-Dieskau’s assets. He tackled everything from Papageno in THE MAGIC FLUTE to heavier parts like Wotan in DAS RHEINGOLD and Wolfram in TANNHÄUSER. He recorded more than three dozen operatic rôles, Italian as well as German, along with oratorios, Bach cantatas and works of many modern composers, including Benjamin Britten, whose WAR REQUIEM he sang at its premiere in 1962.
Mr. Fischer-Dieskau’s insistence on getting things right comes through vividly in scenes of him at rehearsal or conducting master class. In a widely circulated video at the time, showing him coaching a young Christine Schäfer, Ms. Schäfer is singing beautifully, or so it would seem to your average mortal, yet the smiling maestro interrupts time and again to suggest something better. And it isn’t merely that he is invariably correct; it’s also that when he rises to sing just a few illustrative notes, the studio is instantly a stage, and he illuminates it with what seems to be an inner light.
Of the many tributes he received over the decades, perhaps none was more heartfelt than that of the British music critic John Amis: ‘Providence gives to some singers a beautiful voice, to some musical artistry, to some (let us face it) neither, but to Fischer-Dieskau Providence has given both. The result is a miracle, and that is just about all there is to be said about it….Having used a few superlatives and described the program, there is nothing else to do but write ‘finis,’ go home, and thank one’s stars for having had the good luck to be present’.”
- Daniel Lewis, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 18 May, 2012
“Ferruccio Busoni was the son of an Italian clarinet virtuoso who was a harsh and demanding pedagogue. Under the thumb of his father, Busoni developed a virtuoso keyboard technique that is in itself the stuff of legend. He began composing early, adding opus numbers to his works from the beginning. Reaching Opus 40 at age 17, Busoni decided go backward to number 31 and start over, causing no end of grief to scholars who attempted to edit his works later.
From an early age, Busoni pursued a serious interest in the music of J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Liszt. Although Busoni's reputation as a piano virtuoso of the first rank was established in Europe by the end of the 1880s, he first made his mark as an editor of Bach's keyboard music. While today these editions are regarded as among the most intrusive and heavily marked Bach scores ever made, Busoni's marginal remarks about Bach's thought processes and the analytic value of these comments influenced Bach scholars and composers for generations.
In 1896, Busoni found his mature compositional voice in the Violin Sonata #2, Op. 36b, which takes a theme of Bach and submits it to a complex series of variations. In 1904, Busoni followed that with his huge piano concerto. Cast in five movements, it runs 90 minutes and contains parts for a chorus. In 1907, Busoni published a series of writings as ‘Sketch for a New Esthetic of Music’. This book proposes a wide variety of new compositional techniques then relatively uninvestigated in Western music, such as microtonal scales and electronics. By 1912, Busoni had composed his first entirely non-key centered composition, the ‘Sonatina seconda’. The basis for his definitive style is to be found here; it is neither wholly tonal nor completely atonal, but is placed in a sort of harmonic netherworld in between. In the years left to him, Busoni composed four operas, DIE BRAUTWAHL (1912), ARLECCHINO (1915), TURANDOT (1917), and DOKTOR FAUST (1924). His major keyboard work is the ‘Fantasia Contrappuntistica’ (1911-1922), a piece that concludes with a massive fugue built out of the unfinished Contrapunctus XXIV of Bach's DIE KUNST DER FUGE.
Busoni conducted master classes in composition and taught piano. Among his composition students, Kurt Weill made perhaps the most masterly use of Busoni's Apollonian approach to opera and his quirky sense of harmony. Another Busoni pupil, Otto Luening, helped pioneer the use of electronics in music. As a piano teacher, Busoni also started off an international school of super-virtuosos. Claudio Arrau and Egon Petri are good examples of what Busoni wrought in terms of pianists. As to Busoni's own playing, there are some phonograph records of him made in 1919 and an enormous number of piano rolls. The records only hint at what his playing might've sounded like, but some of the better rolls offer a more generous sample of his artistry at the keyboard.
After his death, Busoni was regarded as a great piano virtuoso whose own music was seemingly incomprehensible. Busoni's thinking would have a more decisive impact on later composers, such as John Cage and Morton Feldman, and in the early '80s, his music experienced a small-scale revival of interest. There is little reason to be afraid of Busoni, as his best music is tremendously exciting, accessible, and endlessly thought-provoking.”
- Uncle Dave Lewis, allmusic.com