Friday, May 18, 2012

The Voices That Have Gone, Part 12: RIP DFD

The greatest exponent of German art song of our age, and perhaps of any age, has died.

Otepoti and I have sometimes disagreed about the great Fischer-Dieskau. My personal preference is for a more direct expressive style than his -- one which, through the singer's masterful use of his body, allows an unfettered and elemental emotional resonance to join with the music; this may be heterodox, but I prefer Hans Hotter and Dame Janet Baker in this repertoire. Fischer-Dieskau could be too cerebral at times, too nuanced; at his worst, his singing lectured the listener, so to speak. But still, I loved him. Few singers, living or dead, could approach the humanity with which he sang.

The Times article notes that, unlike his frequent collaborator Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Fischer-Dieskau never had to defend a decision to join the Nazi Party; he never joined. Like the Pope, he was conscripted into the German army, and while he was at the front, his cognitively-disabled brother was killed by the Nazis in one of their many institutions for this purpose. Fischer-Dieskau became a prisoner of war, and made his first Lieder recordings only days after being repatriated (because of food shortages, he sang without so much, I recall reading, as a sip of coffee in the morning of the recording session). I daresay that his emergence on the international music scene did much, in intangible ways, to rehabilitate the world's perception of Germany in the post-war period.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was a great artist, and I surmise he was a great man as well, since we may be recognized as who we truly are by the good we do in the world. May he be rejoicing in heaven as I write this.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for that, P. (Sniff.) Worse than losing Sendak, even.


Pentimento said...

I agree, O. This one truly sucks. I really thought he would never die somehow.