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Laurie Niles

What Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925-2012) Meant to Music and Musicians

May 18, 2012 at 5:34 PM

"If you want to know how to make a phrase, listen to the great singers!" a teacher once admonished me.

By the "great singers," I'm pretty sure he did not mean any singers that I'd ever heard in my then-20-year-old life: the pop singers on the radio, the choir at church. He probably didn't even mean the singers from the musicals I loved, though perhaps a few came close.

I know what he meant by now, though. He meant this guy:

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

The famous German baritone, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau died Friday in Bavaria at age 86.

I will list some obituaries below, if you would like to read about his fascinating life. But on the topic of his music, many violinists admired Fischer-Dieskau's great voice and artistry, including Joshua Bell. I would advise us all do this:

For a moment today, clear your head of all the modern singing that bombards us in every grocery store, on every radio station, in every corner of our lives. Strange sounds have infiltrated our concept of the human voice: thin and amplified, out-of-tune and auto-tuned. Stop and behold Fischer-Dieskau's voice from the past: its ease, its depth, its range and rich quality. Its beauty is fully human; it certainly needs no electronic regimentation. You may well find yourself on Youtube all day; and we do thank the Internet for that!

To start you off: here is Fischer-Dieskau singing one of my favorite lieder: a song by Brahms about nostalgia. Its theme of a return to childhood and longing to rest seem an appropriate memoriam for a man whose long life was full of great difficulty, who created much beauty in the world.

Then, you can go at it all day with hours upon hours of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau on Youtube!

* * *

Here is the New York Times obituary:

The Guardian's Ian Bostridge puts Fischer-Dieskau's life in historical context:

From Joyce Lin
Posted on May 19, 2012 at 2:21 AM
Thanks Laurie for this entry! "An Die Musik" was one of my favorite lieder in childhood. Listening to it brings back so many memories...
From Lawrence Franko
Posted on May 19, 2012 at 5:18 AM
We have lost another giant. And yes, singing is the key to understanding phrasing. All instrumentalists should learn to sing, and to dance. Playing the notes fast and loud -- alas the emphasis of too much instruction today --is NOT what music is about. And we should listen...
From John Cadd
Posted on May 19, 2012 at 10:33 AM
We hesitate out of respect to make a comment . I think we see low responses sometimes when such a genius has passed away. There was never any question of comparing him to any other singer . We could admire his power and also his tenderness equally . He was a blessing to us all .
From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on May 19, 2012 at 6:57 PM
Yesterday afternoon the radio station I had on played Fischer-Dieskau's recording of the Brahms Requiem. What a lovely goodbye.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on May 20, 2012 at 5:03 AM
That must have been gorgeous, Lisa.
From Peter Charles
Posted on May 21, 2012 at 9:02 AM
Of course we must listen and learn from the greatest singers. And as I recently said on another forum, we have inevitably lost probably the greatest musician of the 20C. Sad, but it had to happen.

I'm grateful I heard him live.

(Hope there are not too many spelling miskakes!!) I will have to become like Buri and make my post unintelligable ... (wink)

From Laurie Niles
Posted on May 21, 2012 at 5:59 PM
Think yew, Peter. ;)

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