16 Mar 2019

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925-2012)

From Appointment, 9:00 am on 16 March 2019
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau Photo: Deutsche Gramophon

The great German baritone died on 18 May 2012.

He, more than any other singer, male or female, dominated the German musical landscape of the second half of the 20th century. No one recorded as much and few singers gave as many concerts as he did.

His colleague Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, never one to bestow praise lightly, called him “a born god who has it all”.

In the 1960s Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings provided almost the only access to German lieder for anyone in New Zealand interested in the subject.

His Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Strauss and Wolf recordings for Deutsche Grammophon and then EMI came in a steady flow and were eagerly snapped up. We knew also of his peerless Bach singing, much of it recorded in Berlin while he was still in his 20s.

But of the artist himself, very little was known. The kind of PR machinery that operates today to ensure that no detail of a performing artist’s life remains mysterious was barely developed then. Fischer-Dieskau never sought personal glory, preferring to dedicate his energies to the enormous tasks he set himself. There was nothing of the star about him whatever.

In the 1960s record covers invariably bore his handsome image. He was extremely tall and looked every inch the modern West German man. Usually faintly smiling, modestly but fashionably dressed, often in a high-buttoned jacket with narrow lapels and slim tie, he could have been a personable banker.

In this feature, Peter Shaw, a devoted "Dieskaucolyte", explores the remarkable and unmatched legacy in lieder and opera of the man some call the greatest singer of the 20th century.

Music Details

Wolf:  An eine Aeolsharfe (Mörikelieder)  (DG 447 515)
Brahms:  Ex A German Requiem  (EMI 5 66903)
Brahms:  O Tod wie bitter bist du (4 Serious Songs)  (DG 477 5270)
Wagner:  Kurwenal’s aria from Act I, Tristan and Isolde  (EMI 7 47322)
Wagner:  Wotan’s Farewell, from Die Walküre  (EMI CMS 65212)
Strauss:  Ex Act II, Die Frau ohne Schatten  (DG 449 584)
Berg:  Ex Wozzeck  (DG 435 705)
Bach:  Ex St Matthew Passion  (EMI 5 67538)
Mahler:  Wenn mein schatz (Songs of a Wayfarer)  (EMI 5 67556)
Wolf:  Lebewohl (Mörikelieder)  (DG 447 515)
Schumann:  Im wundershönen Monat Mai (Dichterliebe) [Panzera]  (Biddulph LHW 005)
Schumann:  Im wundershönen Monat Mai (Dichterliebe) [F-D]  (DG 477 5270)
Wolf:  In der Fruhe (Mörikelieder)  (Music & Arts CD 870)
Schubert:  Herbst  (Philips 411 421)

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