In IMSLP, "Der Leiermann" is in A minor.

But this performance is transposed to G minor.

Are my key identifications correct, and if so, why would Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Alfred Brendel (the pianist) lower the key?


3 Answers 3


In songs for voice, the singer's range has to be taken into account. In the recording of Fischer-Dieskau, the key was lowered in order to accommodate for the range of his voice.


The song was published in a key for a tenor, and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is a baritone. So he asked the pianist to change it to a key that worked better with his voice.

Most art songs were in fact published in two editions, in different keys: one for soprano or tenor, and the same music in a lower key for alto or bass.

But any time any singer selects a song to perform or record, the singer can and should change the key to whatever works best for his or her voice. It has always been that way, in virtually all styles of music, everywhere in history.

It is only in the last 100 years, in the age of recorded music, that audiences have become accustomed to hearing a song in a certain key, usually based on what they hear in a hit recording.


Additional tidbit. It is relatively late (say late 19th, early 20th century) that the tuning was standardised at around 440Hz for A. Historical pitches has been shown to be more than a halftone lower in some cases.

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