for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's 80th birthday

Books on Demand, 2005, 156 Seiten,
ISBN 3-8334-2470-2; EUR 29,90

(out of print since 2010)


Just recently DG issued a 21-CD collection in honor of Fischer-Dieskau's 75th birthday. This Fischer-Dieskau Edition contains a hitherto unpublished performance of 'Die schöne Müllerin', recorded in 1968, with the pianist Jörg Demus. We are told that the recording was made, edited, approved, and then somehow never issued. How could that happen? And could it have happened with any singer less prolific than Fischer-Dieskau? Over the years I have seen many estimates of Fischer-Dieskau's recorded output. Just one look at the discography compiled by Monika Wolf suggests that all previous tabulations of Fischer-Dieskau's recordings grossly underestimate the total. How does one assess such an achievement? Does the very number of recordings militate against achieving an accurate evaluation of their quality? Does the abundance signify industry, dedication, enormous versatility, or are we dealing here with a 'Lieder Machine'? Despite the dissenters, it seems that most of us would join J. B.Steane in paraphrasing Dryden: 'Here is God's plenty.'


Tutzing, Hans Schneider Verlag. 2000. 550 pages, EUR 46.-- ISBN 3 7952 0999 4 (out of print since Jan 2011)


Comments and Opinions

"Now, as I am jotting down these lines, I imagine, without much joy, my impending old age and infirmity. I think of the deaths of those I have loved and still love. But I am unable to imagine my own death, since from the beginning I adjusted to the idea of a dubious reincarnation. It is, for example, possible to acquire a kind of immortality by impressing songs on records, an act that makes use of voice, eyes, and the breathing mechanism. Once such work is finished, these organs collapse, only to flutter away like swallows in the form of discs, coming to roost in many collections. A couple of hundred records, twice as many sides, the interpreter's picture on the sleeve-- so I become an icon both practical and terrifying. That is how I imagined fame to be when I was very young. But I ignored death, which goes hand in hand with fame. I worked out a form of immortality for myself that unfortunately did not take into account that every title vanishes from the catalogues as quickly as it appears. But this insight-- along with abandoning pretentious gestures-- came only when I was actually recording." (Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Reverberations)

"The understanding between Dieter and me was so complete that while the tapes were running we would, with barely a word exchanged, repeat an entire song. I knew when he was dissatisfied with himself and I recognized my shortcomings only too well. A song might be taped two or three times; I emphasize this because Fischer-Dieskau had a dislike for the 'patch-work quilt' method of recording, whereby the finished product is cut and taped and edited from a dozen 'takes'. When we stopped it did not mean a cessation of work for we would sit down and listen carefully, sometimes repeatedly, to decided our plan of campaign for the morrow." (Gerald Moore, commenting on recording the DG Schubert Edition with Fischer-Dieskau in Farewell Recital)

"The first session of a Fischer-Dieskau recording is strenuous. His voice is difficult to balance because of its enormous dynamic range, much greater than that of any other singer I have recorded. No microphone can comfortably accommodate this range of dynamics; at close quarters even the ear cannot do so. We have had to compress it; in the best Fischer-Dieskau recordings this compression has been kept down to a minimum, and has been successfully camouflaged by the engineer's anticipating extremes of dynamics and compensating for them in advance. But once these initial hurdles have been negotiated the recording proceeds fast, as Fischer-Dieskau works very fast. He comes to recordings well rehearsed. He sings a song through once, and repeats any section he feels needs to be improved; it is very rarely that he thinks it necessary to sing a song through a second time in full. ... I could not be in the studio when Fischer-Dieskau sang, but I could imagine him standing tense, almost as if coiled for a sudden leap, the eyes only occasionally looking down at the score, singing effortlessly, the only unusual gesture, now and again he would cup open palms behind his ears, so as to give him, from the reflected sound off them, a closer idea of what his voice sounded like to somebody else. Later that year, when we saw in our garden the shrub Dicentra spectabilis in bloom, each flower having two petals curved back, my wife and I with one voice said 'Dieter'!" (Suvi Raj Grubb, Music-Makers on Record)

"Even without his participation as a singer it is unarguable that Fischer-Dieskau is one of the fathers of the Hyperion Schubert Edition: his ground-breaking Schubert recordings with Gerald Moore in the seventies gave us the courage to embark on an enterprise such as ours. Where he leads others have followed, and th ýis has been a pattern throughout his life; for over forty years Fischer-Dieskau has dominated the world of Lieder. Apart from his example as a performing artist, countless programme planners owe to his song archive their knowledge of the repertoire available to them. Over the years he has built up a list of recordings which now makes an endlessly consulted encyclopaedia of the Lied." (Graham Johnson, 1995.)

His Masters Voice

An Early Review

Schubert: Schumann. Der Erlkönig, Op. 1. Die Beiden Grenadiere, from Romanzen und Balladen, Op. 49, Vol. 2, No. 1. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone), Gerald Moore (piano). Sung in German. H.M.V. DB21350 (12 in., 9s. 8 1/2d).

There seems no doubt that, if he conserves his resources and is not, like so many young and successful artists, led into singing everything everywhere, Fischer-Dieskau has it in him to become the finest male lieder singer of the day. At present though he infuses his words with meaning, his enunciation needs sharpening. Fischer-Dieskau gets to the heart of eac h of these two very familiar lieder and gives a convincing and rounded dramatic presentation of them, always in the frame of the concert hall, not of the stage. I noted especially the clipped speech he used for the patriotic grenadier and the suggestion of exhaustion in the last words-- Gerald Moore finely painting the soldier's death in the piano postlude.
Fischer-Dieskau gives, on the reverse, the most compelling interpretation of Der Erlkönig I have heard for a very long time. His Erlking, whispering into the boy's ear, is really sinister and the singer graphically suggests the boy's growing agitation and the father's bewilderment, and the awe-struck tone in which he sings the last words, "war tot," is a finely done imaginative touch.
I have before praised Gerald Moore's playing of the taxing accompaniment of The Erlking and need only add here that he surpasses previous achievements. A.R. [Alec Robertson's first (1951) review of a Fischer-Dieskau recording, reprinted in the Gramophone in November 1993.]

LPs not yet issued on CD

herausgegeben von: Monika Wolf, 1999-2021

English sites, translations and compilations: Celia A. Sgroi, January 2004