Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925-2012)

May 18th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

I heard him in Paris c. 1972, in his prime, singing the Dichterliebe. I first knew of him about a decade before that, when a record store owner convinced me to buy the Klemperer recording of the St. Matthew Passion, in which he sang the role of Jesus.

That was the only time his singing ever disappointed me. I had grown up on Mengelberg’s historic 1939 version, with the unearthly Willem Ravelli singing Jesus. It took some adjustment to accept Fischer-Dieskau’s more human, less mysterious approach, in that voice that Barthes would later stigmatize as too perfect. But I am not big on dichotomies. He soon became my favorite singer, and still in many ways is.

There was hardly any corner of German art song that he left unexplored. Here he is singing Eisler from the Hollywood Songbook, in a song made familiar by the usual Brechtian suspects in German and by Sting, among others, in English.

He treats it like any other German Lied, trying to give the poetry its due. Brecht might have hated it. Eisler, not so much.


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