Sunday, October 5, 2014

What Was I Thinking? Wunderlich's "An die ferne Geliebte" Revisited

About a year and a half ago, I did a column on Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte. In it, I reviewed several tenor performances, and promised to talk about the baritones next. Well, this is not about the baritones. (I did recently hear one baritone version I was not too thrilled about, but I’ll save that for later.)

Anyway, in my review, I said of FW, "He may seem slightly less involved in the text than the other performers."* 

What was I thinking? I don’t know. Maybe it was Beethoven Burnout. Today, I happened upon this version again and it moved me nearly to tears. I felt Fritz was really inside both the music and the text. The way he paints a phrase here and there, and stretches and inflects, and caresses certain words. 

You can hear it right in the first song. Some singers make this strophic song sounds so...strophic. (Here's stanza 1, OK now we're repeating the music with different words, ah one note is changed... maybe...) Fritz makes every stanza sound fresh, almost as if the song is through-composed; and when he bends it like Beethoven in the third stanza, he is definitely involved in this Poet's story!

The man is a genius—Fritz I mean. (Beethoven is generally acknowledged, so I wasn’t going there again.) Fritz’s poet is wistful yet hopeful about seeing his love again. But as the cycle continues, he gradually realizes he really isn’t going to see her ever again. 

Here it is again, for your consideration:

*To be fair to myself, I did add, "But in reality, he is just way more subtle."

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