It was with great sadness that I heard about the death of the wonderful German lyric baritone and conductor, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. He died a couple of days ago at the age of 87. Fischer-Dieskau was one of the most famous Lieder (art song) performers of the post-war period, described as “one of the supreme vocal artists of the 20th century” and “the most influential singer of the 20th Century”. He was ranked the second greatest singer of the century (after Jussi Björling) by Classic CD (United Kingdom) “Top Singers of the Century” Critics’ Poll (June 1999). Quite amazing accolades. He was a totally unique singer.
At his peak, he was greatly admired for his interpretive insights and exceptional control of his beautiful voice. Fischer-Dieskau performed and recorded a great many operatic roles. He was the most recorded singer of all time and dominated both the opera and concert platform for over thirty years.
Opera, Lieder and oratorio in German, Italian or English came alike to him, yet he brought to each a precision and individuality that bespoke his perceptive insights into the idiom at hand.” He also recorded in French, Russian, Hebrew and Hungarian.
His vocal technique was highly accomplished but Fischer-Dieskau’s voice was rather light, a lyric-chamber baritone without huge power. Despite this, he performed and recorded many heavy heroic baritone and bass-baritone operatic roles such as Wotan, Hans Sachs, Amfortas, Telramund, Iago, Macbeth, Scarpia, and Jokanaan.
He was most admired, though, as a singer of Schubert Lieder, particularly the cycle Winterreise. His recordings of Winterreise with accompanist Gerald Moore and Jörg Demus are still critically acclaimed half a century after their release. I adore these recordings and for me they are quintessential Fischer-Dieskau. He brings such warmth and richness to Schubert’s works especially and I find listening to them an emotional and quite overwhelming experience.
Here are a few of my favourite Fischer-Dieskau clips. Enjoy!