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DIETRICH FISCHER-DIESKAU

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s parents stood squarely in the German professional middle class, whose values permeated the lives of the family members: his father, a classical scholar, was the principal of a secondary school and his mother was a teacher. His grandmother on his father’s side was a member of the von Dieskau family, for one of whom J.S. Bach had written his Peasant Cantata of 1742. Initially Fischer-Dieskau studied piano, both with his mother and while at school; but having also sung as a child, at sixteen he commenced formal vocal study in Berlin with Professor Georg Walter.

In 1943, after completing one semester at the Berlin Conservatory, Fischer-Dieskau joined the Wehrmacht; but after capture by the Allies in Italy spent two years as an American prisoner of war, during which he would often sing to his fellow prisoners. He returned to Berlin in 1947, studied briefly with Professor Hermann Weissenborn at the Conservatory, and soon was singing professionally. As he has commented about this period, ‘I passed my final exam in the concert hall.’

His first major professional engagement was in 1947 as a last-minute substitute for another singer in a performance at Badenweiler, given without rehearsal, of Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem. In the autumn of that year Fischer-Dieskau gave his first lieder recital in Leipzig, soon followed by his first, very successful, Berlin concert at the Titania Palast. During the following year he broadcast Schubert’s Winterreise on Berlin radio and joined the Städtische Oper (Municipal Opera) in Berlin as a principal lyric baritone, making his debut in the autumn of 1948 as Posa / Don Carlo, with Ferenc Fricsay conducting. This company, which became the Deutsche Oper in 1961, was to be his artistic home until his retirement from opera in 1978.

Fischer-Dieskau quickly made his mark internationally, appearing as a guest at the Bavarian State Opera, Munich, the Hamburg State Opera and the Vienna State Opera, and from 1949 undertaking concert tours across France, Italy, Holland and Switzerland. He first appeared at the Salzburg Festival in 1951, singing Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden gesellen with Furtwängler conducting, and returned regularly from 1956 until 1973, appearing as the Count / Le nozze di Figaro (1960–1964), Verdi’s Macbeth (1965), and Don Alfonso / Così fan tutte (1972–1973) as well as giving numerous song recitals. Also in 1951 he made his London debut at the Royal Albert Hall, singing in Delius’s A Mass of Life with Sir Thomas Beecham conducting. Fischer-Dieskau returned to the UK frequently: highlights included the first performances of Britten’s War Requiem (1962, Coventry Cathedral) and his Songs and Proverbs of William Blake (composed for the singer) (1965, Aldeburgh Festival); and two notable appearances at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden: as Mandryka / Arabella, with Georg Solti conducting (1965) and as Verdi’s Falstaff (1967). His debut at the Bayreuth Festival came in 1954 with Wolfram / Tannhäuser (1954–1955, 1961) and the Herald / Lohengrin (1954), followed by Amfortas / Parsifal (1955–1956) and Kothner / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1956). His first concert tour of the United States was in 1955, singing both in concert and in lieder recitals, including a complete Winterreise without intermission in New York accompanied by Gerald Moore.

In opera, Fischer-Dieskau’s repertoire was extensive. It included, in addition to the roles already mentioned, Jochanaan (Salome, 1952), Don Giovanni (1953), Busoni’s Faust (1955), Renato / Un ballo in maschera (1957), Hindemith’s Mathis (1959), Wozzeck (1960), Eugene Onegin (1961), Barak / Die Frau ohne Schatten (1963), Sachs / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1975) and the title role in the premiere of Reimann’s Lear (1978). On record his roles included both Olivier and the Count in different recordings of Capriccio, Papageno / Die Zauberflöte (Böhm), Kurwenal / Tristan und Isolde (Furtwängler), the Dutchman (Konwitschny), Wotan / Das Rheingold (Karajan) and Rigoletto (Kublelík). An ardent advocate of contemporary music, Fischer-Dieskau performed works by many living composers including Samuel Barber, Hans Werner Henze, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Ernst Krenek, Witold Lutosławski, Siegfried Matthus, Gottfried von Einem and Winfried Zillig. He made a vast number of recordings, especially of lieder, committing to disc virtually the entire repertoire of German Romantic songs appropriate for a male singer by Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Brahms, Loewe, Richard Strauss and Wolf.

Having retired from opera in 1978, Fischer-Dieskau made his last public appearance as a singer aged sixty-seven in a gala concert on New Year’s Eve 1992 at the Bavarian State Opera. Subsequently he devoted himself to teaching, painting and writing books. Possessed of a beautiful natural voice, Fischer-Dieskau also had the consummate ability to communicate meaning through vocal inflection, posture, gesture, facial expression and eye contact, making him one of the most complete singers of the twentieth century. In an interview with the English journalist Martin Kettle, Fischer-Dieskau revealed that the greatest influence upon him was the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler: ‘He once said to me that the most important thing for a performing artist was to build up a community of love for the music with the audience, to create one fellow feeling among so many people who have come from so many different places and feelings. I have lived with that ideal all my life as a performer.’

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).

View by Role: Classical Artist | Conductor
Role: Classical Artist 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
A TO Z OF SINGERS Naxos Educational
8.558097-100
Vocal
BACH, J.S.: Vocal Music (Fischer-Dieskau) (1953-1959) SWR Classic
CD94.201
Vocal, Choral - Sacred, Vocal
Ballades - SCHUMANN, R. / LISZT, F. / ULLMANN, V. (Fischer-Dieskau, Holl) SWR Classic
CD93.906
Vocal, Literature
BEETHOVEN, L. van: Vocal Music (Fischer-Dieskau, G. Moore) Orfeo
C140501B
Vocal
BRAHMS, J.: Deutsches Requiem (Ein) (Fischer-Dieskau, Grummer, Kempe) (1955) Naxos Historical
8.111342
Choral - Sacred
BRAHMS, J.: Lieder (Liederabende Salzburger Festspiele Live 1957-1965, Vol. 2) (Fischer-Dieskau, G. Moore) Orfeo
C140201B
Vocal
DEBUSSY, C.: Enfant prodigue (L') / La damoiselle élue (J. Norman, Carreras, Fischer-Dieskau, Stuttgart Radio Choir and Symphony, Bertini) Orfeo
C012821A
Vocal
DEBUSSY, C.: Pelléas et Mélisande [Opera] (Gedda, Fischer-Dieskau, Meven, Gampert, Grumbach, Donath, Bavarian Radio Chorus and Symphony, R. Kubelík) Orfeo
C367942I
Opera
DEUTSCHE OPER BERLIN - 100 Years (1912-2012) (6-DVD Box Set) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
107522
Opera DVD
DVD SAMPLER 2006 - BALLET and CONCERT (NTSC) TDKDVD
DVWW-COSMPL3
Samplers
FORTNER, W.: Lieder (Doufexis, Fischer-Dieskau, Lukas, C. Lincoln, Bauni, Reimann) Orfeo
C433971A
Vocal
FURTWÄNGLER, Wilhelm: Vienna Concerts (1944-1954) Orfeo
C834118Y
Choral - Sacred
GLUCK, C.W.: Iphigenia auf Tauris [Opera] (Lorengar, Grönroos, Bonisolli, Fischer-Dieskau, Bavarian Radio Chorus, Munich Radio Orchestra, Gardelli) Orfeo
C052832H
Opera
GLUCK, C.W.: Orfeo ed Euridice [Opera] (Fischer-Dieskau, Söderström, Pütz, Cologne Radio Chorus, Cappella Coloniensis, Leitner) Orfeo
C391952I
Opera
HINDEMITH, P.: Lieder (Fischer-Dieskau, Reimann) Orfeo
C156861A
Vocal
HINDEMITH, P.: When lilacs last in the door-yard bloom'd (Requiem) (Vienna State Opera Chorus, Vienna Symphony, Sawallisch) Orfeo
C112851A
Choral - Sacred
MAHLER, G.: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen / Kindertotenlieder / SCHUMANN, R.: Liederkreis (Fischer-Dieskau) (1952-1955) Naxos Historical
8.111300
Vocal
MOZART, W.A.: Don Giovanni (Deutsche Oper Berlin Opening Performance, 1961) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
101574
Opera DVD
MOZART, W.A.: Notturni / Divertimenti (Hintz, C. Schäfer, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Wind Ensemble) Orfeo
C218911A
Vocal Ensemble
NACHT, HELLER ALS DER TAG (Fischer-Dieskau, Folkwang Gitarren Duo) Orfeo
C379951A
Anthologies / Collections, Poetry, Instrumental, Poetry
Opera Arias - GLUCK, C.W. / MOZART, W.A. / CHERUBINI, L. / BELLINI, V. / VERDI, G. (Bel Canto) (Aliberti, Baltsa, Bergonzi, Bonisolli, Bumbry) Orfeo
C321931Z
Opera
Opera Arias (Soprano): Várady, Julia - MOZART, W.A. / STRAUSS, R. / WAGNER, R. / VERDI, G. (1975-1992) Orfeo
C579041B
Opera
Opera Arias (Tenor): Dermota, Anton - MOZART, W.A / WAGNER, R. / BEETHOVEN, L. van / STRAUSS, R. / TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I. / SHOSTAKOVICH, D. / PFITZNER, H. Orfeo
C683102I
Opera
Opera Duets: Bergonzi, Carlo / Fischer-Dieskau, Dietrich - VERDI, G. / PONCHIELLI, A. / BIZET, G. / PUCCINI, G. Orfeo
C028821A
Opera
PFITZNER, H.: Lieder (Fischer-Dieskau, Garben, Höll) Orfeo
C036821A
Vocal
PUCCINI, G.: Gianni Schicchi [Opera] (Sung in German) (Fischer-Dieskau, Schary, Bavarian State Opera Chorus, Bavarian State Orchestra, Sawallisch) Orfeo
C546001B
Opera
RAVEL, M.: Mélodies (Fischer-Dieskau, Höll) Orfeo
C061831A
Vocal
REGER, M.: Requiem / Hymnus der Liebe / Der Einsiedler / An die Hoffnung (Fischer-Dieskau, Hamburg State Philharmonic, Albrecht) Orfeo
C209901A
Vocal, Choral - Secular, Choral - Sacred
REICHARDT, J.F.: Lieder der Liebe und der Einsamkeit (Fischer-Dieskau, M. Graf) Orfeo
C245921A
Vocal
REIMANN, A.: Unrevealed / Shine and Dark (Fischer-Dieskau, Reimann, Cherubini Quartet) Orfeo
C212901A
Vocal
REUTTER, H.: Lieder (Soffel, Fischer-Dieskau) Orfeo
C121021A
Vocal
SCHUBERT, F.: Schöne Müllerin (Die) (Fischer-Dieskau, Schiff) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
107269
Classical Concert
SCHUBERT, F.: Schöne Müllerin (Die) (PAL) TDKDVD
DV-CODSM
Classical Concert
SCHUBERT, F.: Vocal Music (Salzburg Festival Live, Vol. 1) (Fischer-Dieskau, G. Moore) Orfeo
C140101B
Vocal
SCHUBERT, F.: Winterreise (Fischer-Dieskau, Brendel) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
107229
Classical Concert
SCHUBERT, F.: Winterreise (Fischer-Dieskau, Brendel) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
109317
Classical Concert
SCHUBERT, F.: Winterreise / Die schöne Müllerin (Fischer-Dieskau, Brendel, A. Schiff) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
107523
Classical Concert
SCHUBERT: Winterreise (NTSC) TDKDVD
DVWW-COWINT
Classical Concert
SCHUMANN, R.: 12 Gedichte, Op. 35 / Liederkreis (Fischer-Dieskau, G. Moore) Orfeo
C140301B
Vocal
SPOHR, L.: Jessonda [Opera] (Várady, Behle, Moser, Moll, Fischer-Dieskau, Hamburg State Philharmonic, Albrecht) Orfeo
C240912H
Opera
SPOHR, L.: Vocal Music (Fischer-Dieskau, Várady, Schöneberger, Sitkovetsky, Höll) Orfeo
C103841A
Vocal
SPONTINI, G.: Olimpie [Opera] (Varády, Fischer-Dieskau, Fortune, J. Becker, Berlin Radio Symphony, Albrecht) Orfeo
C137862H
Opera
STRAUSS, R.: Arabella [Opera] (Várady, Fischer-Dieskau, Donath, Berry, Bavarian State Opera Chorus and Orchestra, Sawallisch) Orfeo
C169882H
Opera
STRAUSS, R.: Capriccio (Schwarzkopf, Wachter, Gedda, Fischer-Dieskau, Hotter, Ludwig, Philharmonia Orchestra, Sawallisch) (1957-1958) Naxos Historical
8.112034-35
Opera
STRAVINSKY, I.: Symphony of Psalms / 2 Poèmes de Paul Verlaine / Babel / Abraham and Isaac (Stuttgart Radio Symphony, Fischer-Dieskau, Bertini) Orfeo
C015821A
Vocal, Choral - Sacred
VERDI, G.: Don Carlos (Deutsche Oper, Berlin, 1965) (NTSC) Arthaus Musik
101621
Opera DVD
Vocal Recital: Fischer-Dieskau, Dietrich - MENDELSSOHN, Felix / SCHUMANN, R. / PFITZNER, H. / WALTER, B. / WOLF, H. (Eichendorff Lieder) Orfeo
C185891B
Vocal
Vocal Recital: Fischer-Dieskau, Dietrich - NEUKOMM, S.R. von / KREUTZER, C. / DONIZETTI, G. / REISSIGER, C.G. (Lieder der Romantik) Orfeo
C153861A
Vocal
Vocal Recital: Fischer-Dieskau, Dietrich - PFITZNER, H. / SCHNABEL, A. / STRAUSS, R. / WEBERN, A. / ZEMLINSKY, A. Orfeo
C390951B
Vocal
Vocal Recital: Fischer-Dieskau, Dietrich - STOLZEL, G.H. / TUNDER, F. / BUXTEHUDE, D. (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau sings Baroque Arias) (1952-1954) SWR Classic
CD94.218
Vocal
Vocal Recital: Fischer-Dieskau, Dietrich - ZELTER, C.F. / REICHARDT, J.F. / BEETHOVEN, L. van / SCHUBERT, F. / SCHUMANN, R. (Goethe-Lieder) Orfeo
C389951B
Vocal
WAGNER, R.: Tannhäuser [Opera] (Brouwenstijn, Windgassen, Fischer-Dieskau, Greindl, Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Cluytens) (1955) Orfeo
C643043D
Opera
WAGNER, R.: Tannhäuser [Opera] (V. de los Angeles, Bumbry, Windgassen, Fischer-Dieskau, Bayreuth Festival Chorus and Orchestra, Sawallisch) (1961) Orfeo
C888143D
Opera
WOLF, H.: Gedichte von J.W. v. Goethe (excerpts) (Fischer-Dieskau, S. Richter) Orfeo
C543001B
Vocal
WOLF, H.: Italienisches Liederbuch (I. Seefried, D. Fischer-Dieskau, E. Werba) Orfeo
C220901B
Vocal
WOLF, H.: Mörike-Lieder (Fischer-Dieskau, G. Moore) Orfeo
C140401B
Vocal
WOLF, H.: Vocal Music (Fischer-Dieskau, Munich Radio Orchestra, Soltesz) Orfeo
C219911A
Vocal
ZELTER, C.F.: Vocal Music (Fischer-Dieskau, Reimann) Orfeo
C097841A
Vocal

Role: Conductor 
Album Title
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