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Switch to Forum Live View Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Pre-eminent 20th Century Baritone - Rest in Peace
6 years ago  ::  May 19, 2012 - 3:42AM #1
Posts: 14,591

I appreciate that this thread may be of limited interest. Yet for those of us who love the voice and classical vocal music, Fischer-Dieskau's death today is a significant moment.  He died at his home in Bavaria.  He was 86.  His obituaries are everywhere, including The New York Times.

The Times describes Fischer-Dieskau as "the German baritone whose beautiful voice and mastery of technique made him the 20thcentury’s pre-eminent interpreter of art songs."  It goes on to note that he 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.”

It goes on to note that 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.  His output included the many hundreds of Schubert songs appropriate for the male voice, the songs and song cycles of Schumann and Brahms, and those of later composers such as Mahler, Shostakovich, and Hugo Wolf.  He won two Grammys - in 1971 for Schubert lieder, and in 1973 for Brahms’ Schöne Magelone.”

It also observes that “Fischer-Dieskau had sufficient power for the concert hall and for substantial roles in his parallel career as a star of European opera houses.  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.”

My sense is that Fischer-Dieskau was perhaps the defining lyric baritone for the 20th century.  I recognized his sound in many post-WWII baritones.  Perhaps many folks here were exposed to his voice on the soundtrack to Derek Jarman’s film, War Requiem.

The American baritone Thomas Hampson has written (on his Facebook page) a tribute to Fischer-Dieskau:

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925 - 2012)
A Singer for the ages, an Artist for eternity………...

Few artists achieve the level of recognition, admiration and influence of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and even fewer live to see that influence realised during their own lifetime. Ushering in the modern recording era, he challenged our perceptions and processes of how recordings could be made, explored the possibilities of modern recording and exploited the potential for popularity of classical music; and all this while setting standards of artistic achievement, integrity, risk-taking, and the aesthetic ideal that became our new norm.

Whether we bask in the beauty of his tone, revere the probing, questioning power of his intellect, or simply wonder at his astonishing physical abilities through all that he achieved in his long recording career, we must also pause and say 'Thank you' to this great artist, whose legacy, like a great and bright star lighting the way for those who follow in his passion for singing, is exemplary in every way.

A Hero has passed. May he rest in peace.

Merope | Beliefnet Community Manager
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6 years ago  ::  May 19, 2012 - 4:10AM #2
Posts: 14,591

Ian Bostridge, the British tenor (opera singer and recitalist) blogs about Fischer-Dieskau in The Guardian:

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was a titanic figure and a mirror of his age. Hearing of his death today at the age of 86 it was the singing I thought of, of course, and the little of it I managed to hear live. Recitals on the Southbank in the 80s – a Meeresstille (Becalmed at Sea) of Schubert, so whispered that every member of the audience leant imperceptibly forward to catch the thread of sound he so miraculously spun. The most terrifying Erlkönig I have ever heard or, indeed, seen. A War Requiem that called to mind the circumstances of its premiere in Coventry when he struggled with the weight of his memories at the end of the piece, barely able to move.

He lived the 20th century in all its bleakness – a brother murdered by the Nazis, his first Winterreise performed as an American prisoner of war in Italy. His singing of the whole body of German song – from Mozart to Henze via his touchstone, Schubert – showed the world a new Germany, as significant in its way as the Wirtschaftswunder. He was profiled several times in Time magazine ("by all odds the world's finest lieder singer") and was one of the first German artists to sing in Israel. Personal memories abound, and his affectionate warmth will linger with me, he was never the grandee. But so too will the recordings I listened to again and again as a teenager, and still listen to today.

He was a great opera singer of course – a brilliant but atypical Iago, a seminal Wozzeck, never routine, ever surprising. He inspired a wealth of new music – Auden's monstrous creation, Mittenhofer, in Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers, Reimann's King Lear.

But now I have in my mind's ear Goethe's magical - but almost untranslatable - poem Grenzen der Menschheit, set to music by Hugo Wolf, and incomparably brought to life in all its grandeur and mysterious humility by Fischer-Dieskau and his companion on so many journeys, the pianist Gerald Moore:

Ein kleiner Ring
Begränzt unser Leben
Und viele Geschlechter
Reihen sich dauernd
An ihres Daseins
Unendliche Kette.

(A small ring
Is the boundary of our life,
And many generations
Form a constant procession
In the endless chain of being.)

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6 years ago  ::  May 19, 2012 - 10:38AM #3
Posts: 4,481

Incomparable, he was. I cannot imagine anyone else doing the Schubert lieder; he defined them.

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6 years ago  ::  May 26, 2012 - 11:37PM #4
Posts: 16,967

This thread was moved from the Hot Topics Zone.

I have heard this wonderful man sing but never in person. He reminds me of one of my favorite baritones, Samuel Ramy, whose Mephistopholes in Gunod's Faust was beyond compare!


Libertarian, Conservative, Life member of the NRA and VFW
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