Entertainment & Arts

German baritone singer Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau dies

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau at the premiere of War Requiem in 1962
Image caption Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau singing at the premiere of War Requiem in 1962

The respected German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has died, aged 86.

Once described as " the most influential singer of the 20th Century ", he was famed for his performances of Winter's Journey (Winterreise) by Schubert.

Born in Berlin in May 1925, he emerged as a performer after World War II and was swiftly recognised as one of his generation's finest lyrical vocalists.

Benjamin Britten personally asked him to perform in the first performance of his War Requiem in May 1962.

The premiere famously took place in the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, which had been destroyed in a bombing raid in 1940.

"To my generation, he was something so special that one was always awestruck," the English mezzo-soprano Dame Janet Baker told Sean Rafferty on Radio 3's In Tune programme.

"One just bows before the artistry and the sheer beauty of the sound he made."

Benchmark

Fischer-Dieskau was most famous for his interpretations of lieder - German art songs written for solo voice and piano.

He performed them around the world, rescued many from obscurity, and made scores of recordings that became the benchmark against which other singers' interpretations were judged.

Klaus Staeck, president of the German Academy of Arts, said his contribution to the German art song was "phenomenal".

"His performances of some of the great roles in opera history shaped the culture of singing," he went on.

Though critics raved about his beautiful voice and musical artistry, Fischer-Dieskau said his aim was simply to get close to the essence of the song.

His intention, he said, was to suppress nothing and make no concessions - either to vocal limitations or popular taste.

A former soldier who spent nearly two years as an American prisoner of war, Fischer-Dieskau was a regular fixture at opera houses in Berlin, Vienna and London and at New York's Carnegie Hall.

The singer, music teacher and playwright played a significant role in invigorating the Salzburg Festival before retiring in 1992.

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