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This collection of operatic extracts recorded between 1955 and 1961 finds Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau at his peak. Papageno’s songs from Die Zauberflöte are infinitely charming and demonstrate what subtle tonal and textual resources Fischer-Dieskau could draw on. His ‘Champagne Aria’ from Don Giovanni possesses fierce energy. Occasionally there’s a want of sheer power – Pizarro’s aria from Fidelio, for instance – though never of interpretative ability. His Wolfram in Tannhäuser reveals deep sensitivity. His Dutchman rises to terrifying existential despair. The Verdi half of the CD inevitably evokes comparisons with Italian (or at least Italianate) singers that Fischer-Dieskau cannot sustain; his was never an ideal Verdi baritone, lacking the brilliance of surface and the iron core at the centre possessed by the best exponents. But there are significant compensations in his musical and dramatic insights as he traverses such characters as Montfort (I vespri Siciliani – sung in Italian), Rigoletto, Luna, Renato, Posa (again in Italian, and with a real trill!) and especially Falstaff.

George Hall Read the full review on Agora Classica

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