Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: The Author

Books by Fischer-Dieskau (in English) 
Books/Articles about Fischer-Dieskau (in English)

It should come as no great surprise that the musician Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, singer of lieder and opera, is also intensely occupied with reading and writing. Fischer-Dieskau grew up in a house filled with books, and often observed his father, the author of several books of his own, hard at work on a writing project. As a child, Fischer-Dieskau played with a cardboard puppet theater, moving the paper puppets around and declaiming from Reclam editions of plays by Goethe and Schiller, being stymied only by Wallenstein, with its enormous casts of characters. According to a childhood friend, one never saw the boy Fischer-Dieskau without a book under his arm, and his active imagination provided the material for many private games. As is the case with many people who love literature, Fischer-Dieskau tried his hand as an author of poems and stories, but these youthful efforts came to nothing.

While the young Fischer-Dieskau read much fiction and poetry, the mature Fischer-Dieskau is a reader of musical and literary source material and especially of the letters of musical and literary figures. Fischer-Dieskau's research into the aesthetic and historical background of the music he performed soon began to manifest itself in published form, as well: in essays and liner notes for recordings. Since his first book publication in 1968, Fischer-Dieskau has produced a great number of books, book chapters, essays, lectures, and newspaper articles, as well as several editions of music in collaboration with his friend and Hochschule der Künste colleague, Professor Elmar Budde. Not surprisingly, most of these are available only in German, but several of his books have also appeared in English translations, as well as in other languages.

"My future began to take shape in the imaginary theater behind the curtains and between the cardboard scenery cut from broadsheets-- also among volumes of Goethe and Schiller shelved above those of Wieland, Heine, and Lenau. Because there was not enough space, some of my father's books were kept on a simple shelf that ran along the wall in the corridor; but the greater part were kept in a very tall case decorated in bad taste. At the center stood Meyer's twenty-four-volume encyclopedia, from which I derived a certain amount of precocious knowledge. The classics, heavy old volumes in thickly gilded bindings, were lavishly encrusted with figures and portraits; you could feel them with your fingertips. The texts were embellished with the usual illustrations in bad late-nineteenth-century taste. Beside them stood the good Cotta editions of German poets, more modestly illustrated. All of them were destroyed in the fire bombings.
As long as my father was alive, my access to the books, with their infinite number of penciled marginal notes, was limited or secret. I made up for it by browsing through Woermann's history of art so often that I could recite all the picture captions by heart, a feat that astonished my father the one time he tested me." (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Reverberations). 

"His father's retirement and the leisure it gave him to write also had an influence on the growing boy. His father received a postcard one day from his eight-year old son on holiday which proudly proclaimed that he had started a novel entitled My garden and that he had already covered fourteen sides of his school notebook. This work of art vanished in the flames of war-torn Berlin, but Fischer-Dieskau recalls a few sentences: "I wanted to get married, so I telephoned all over the place until I found a wife. Then I told her we were going to the Registry Office first thing in the morning." The theme does not sound particularly promising!" (K.S. Whitton, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: Mastersinger). 

"The fusion of words and music also made [Fischer-Dieskau] conscious of something else, namely how quickly music vanishes, whereas the written word seems to promise permanence. The word can await the hour when it will be recognized, used, and treasured; the singer's song is something quite different. The musician almost envied the permanence of the written word (which in truth, however, is often very limited). From childhood on, Fischer-Dieskau had always had a great respect for what had been written and printed. Those who grow up with books pick up a book, even when they are adults, quite differently from any other object. Books do not just have a destiny as a book, each book has its own life. People who read understand this-- and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was one of those from his earliest childhood. The books in his house can be numbered in thousands (as can his records), and he is always reading them. Just as anyone wanting to be an author has never been frightened that so many books have already been written, neither was he intimidated by the number of books on his shelves or by the wealth of printed matter." (Hans A. Neunzig, Dietrich Fischer Dieskau: A Biography)  


Books by Fischer-Dieskau (in English):

  • Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. The Fischer-Dieskau Book of Lieder. (George Bird and Richard Stokes, trans.) New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977. 

'The book is introduced by a disappointingly banal essay [Fischer-Dieskau's] selection of texts, however, is another matter; for what he has here given us is not only a useful handbook for concert-goers, but also a fascinating anthology of major and minor verse.Ó (S.S.Prawer, Times Literary Supplement).

  • Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Schubert's Songs: A Biographical Study. (Kenneth S. Whitton, trans.) New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977.

'[This] is a learned, immensely readable study of Schubert's life and songs . . . [It] is not a how-to-do-it book, although musicians might profit from the author's insight . . . ' (W. Bender, Time).

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Robert Schumann: Words and Music. (Reinhard G. Pauly, trans.) Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1981.

' [Mr. Fischer-Dieskau] turns out to be a thoughtful, if not original, cultural historian. He makes a strong point, which one wishes he had gone into deeper and at greater length, that Nietzsche, in addition to being the most brilliant philosophical mind of his generation, was a talented pianist and composer manque. The author makes clear that they lack technical polish but also that they lie much closer in spirit and style to the expressionist outpourings of Mahler to come than to late Wagner works.' (D. Henahan, New York Times Book Review).

  • Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Reverberations: The Memoirs of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. (Ruth Hein, trans.). New York: Fromm International, 1987. [Published in the U.K. under the title Echoes of a Lifetime]

'Echoes of a Lifetime is a pleasure to read: a rounded self-portrait full of the keenest observations,whether of self or others, across the span of a glorious and celebrated career. In ceaselessly expanding his own prodigious repertory of songs and roles through more than 40 years of public performance, the singer has always been fired by artistic instinct, native intelligence far more widely cultivated than usual, intellectual curiosity,
impatience with easy success; one sees and feels such strengths at work in his autobiography.
As a boy Fischer-Dieskau longed to be a painter; the visual arts remain high among his many non-musical involvements. In print his eye for illuminating character traits (such as his own lifelong crippling shyness, so often misread as arrogant aloofness) or the defining curiosities of any situation can claim a painterly exactness and appetite for apt detail.' (Max Loppert, Financial Times).

'Not only is this book a valuable historica ål document with references to major music figures, it is strong in personal, often poignant, remembrances. The authorÕs reflections on artistic collaboration, on creativity in the contemporary world, on the artist as thinker and teacher, combine to make this a publication of interest to all readers.' (R. Miller, Choice).

Short story by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau : "Asrael", which appeared in the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" in 1991 (translated by Celia A. Sgroi 2002)


Books/Articles about Fischer-Dieskau (in English):

Abel, J. 'The World's Most Recorded Artist's Greatest Hits.' High Fidelity/Musical America 22(Jan.1972):20. 
Apthorp, S. 'King Fischer' BBC Music Magazine (July 2005) 34-35
Bernheimer, M. 'Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.' Opera News (January 28, 1961): 12-13. 
Bernheimer, M. 'Modern Meistersinger.' Hifi/Stereo Review 6 (April 1961) :33-37  
Bernheimer, M. 'A New Baby for Fischer-Dieskau.' (U.S. conducting debut)   Los Angeles Times. April 7, 1974.
Blyth, A. 'Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.' Gramophone 48 (Dec. 1970): 967. 
Blyth, A. 'FD at Sixty.' Gramophone 63 (Sept. 1985): 312. 
Cramer, O., Marienfeld, St.: 'Between the notes, that's the main thing' Washington, Fidelio Magazine (Summer 1997) 
Crutchfield, W. 'A Genial Fischer-Dieskau Reflects on Life and Lieder.' (interview) New York Times (March 22, 1988): sec. C, 13. 
Crutchfield, W. 'Chasing Perfection: A Portrait of Fischer-Dieskau.'   New York Times (July 11, 1999): sec. 2, 31+
Crutchfield, W. 'Fischer-Dieskau at Sixty.'   Opus 1.5 (1985):22-7.
Davis, P.G. 'Return of a Master.' New York 21.15 (April 11, 1988): 120-121. 
'Der Liedermeister.' (report on master class) The Economist 12 (Oct. 1991): 95. 
Gurewitsch, M. 'Voice of the Mind.' The Atlantic Monthly (March 1994): 110-114. 
Hathaway, T. 'Voices.' Canadian Forum (Sept.1978): 33-34. 
Heyworth, P. 'A Biedermeier Man in West Berlin.' High Fidelity (March 1962): 55-57+. 
Heyworth, P. 'Too Much an Artist to be a Star.' New York Times. (January 17,1971). 
Ivry, Benjamin 'A Voice of the Century Past' New England Review 2006 Vol 27, Iss 1
Keller, J. M. 'The Essential Fischer-Dieskau.' Opera News 61.2(Aug. 1996): 33-35. 
Martin Kettle "It is the start of the final episode" 'Guardian' May 20, 2005
Moore, G. 'Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.' In: 'Am I Too Loud?' London: Hamish Hamilton, 1961. 
Neunzig, H. A. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: A Biography. (trans. Kenneth S. Whitton).   Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1998.

 cover Neunzig

Newhouse B. 'Award for Lifetime Achievement' (Interview). Gramophone 71.846 (Nov. 1993): 60-62. 
Newhouse, B. 'The Master Singer Seeks No Epitaph.' The European 19-22 (Aug. 1993): 23. 
Phillips, H. 'Fischer-Dieskau at Fifty.' The New Republic (June 28, 1975): 29-30. 
Raynor, H. 'Living Legend.'   Music & Musicians (Jan 1965):30.
Reid, C. 'Variants on a Voice.' Music & Musicians (March 1967): 24. 
Salzman, E. 'The Complete Baritone.' (interview) Opera News (January 18, 1969): 26-28. 
Sandow, G. '21 Sides of Fischer-Dieskau' Opera News (November 2000)
Sgroi, Celia S. 'Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Me' Originally published in 1997 on Opera-l
Steane, J.B. 'Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.' In: 'Singers of the Century'. Portland, OR: Amadeus Press, 1996: 156-160. 
Stuckenschmidt, H.H. 'Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. The celebrated Baritone is Profiled at Fifty.' Opera News 40 (Nov.1975): 24-26 . 
Tolansky, J. 'The song and the singer' Gramophone (July 2005) 22-29
Turner, G. 'Fischer-Dieskau.' Music & Musicians 20 (Jan.1972): 60-61. 
Whitton, K. S. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau: Mastersinger. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1981. 

 cover Whitton



herausgegeben von: Monika Wolf, 1999-2021

translations and compilations: Celia A. Sgroi, January 2004