Saturday, May 19, 2012

He had everything. Absolutely everything.

We're all saddened by the news that Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau passed away yesterday, aged 86. His voice is one of the chief ingredients of the musical bread that generations have fed upon: I certainly got to know and love the baritone Lieder repertoire from his recordings. One eternal favourite is the Schumann Dichterliebe, recorded with Christoph Eschenbach at the piano; I had the LP and nearly wore it out.

Tributes around the web are many and varied. Here is the obituary from The Telegraph. And below our chosen songs - including 'Im wunderschoenen Monat Mai', of course, from that Dichterliebe - is a transcript of an interview that Dame Janet Baker gave on BBC R3's In Tune yesterday in which she gives her personal memories of this great man and towering artist.

On Music Matters today (at 12.15) you can hear Tom Service interviewing the mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig and the pianist Murray Perahia about him, and another chance to hear two interviews with "DFD" himself.
Roger Wright, Controller of BBC Radio 3 and Director of the BBC Proms, offers us a tribute of his own:   
“The loss of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau brings to a close a significant era in classical music. His unique artistry was wide-ranging and above all his singing defined the art of lieder performance and set new standards for future generations."

Dame Janet Baker: “Some people say ‘Is there anything in your life you regret?’. There is something that I felt very sad about at the time: he asked me to do the female Schubert songs when he recorded all the Schubert songs. He wanted to bring in a woman’s voice to do certain songs and I was contracted very firmly to my own recording company in this country and they didn’t feel that it was right or possible for me to do that. Artistically speaking, that was a great disappointment for me because I would have loved to have been on that label with him.”

Sean Rafferty: Is it Impossible to analyse his talent? 
Dame Janet Baker: “I think you used the word unique a minute ago and that again is a word that one can apply. We’re all singing the same repertoire - presumably on a certain level we are all singing very well. The thing that sets us apart, like all human beings, is the personality of the human being behind all this and there are never two of us totally alike. And so the great artist brings that sense of uniqueness to everything they do and it’s unmatchable. It’s why I think there should never be any jealousy between singers, because, no matter what we do, we are all quite different from one another.”

Sean Rafferty: What was it like to work together?
Dame Janet Baker: “He was quite a formal man and there was a - not a distance, not at all, he was friendly - but as we got to know each other better he showed his light-hearted, humorous, warm, human side. And to know him at that level was a sort of bonus, quite apart from his great musicality, and he became a friend.  That doesn’t mean to say that one was ever blasé about his status, so to speak, and his great artistry, one never forgets that for a moment, but it was a very special privilege to know him at a different level.”

Sean Rafferty: How would you describe his legacy?
Dame Janet Baker: “I think it is probably a bit like Kathleen Ferrier. An artist of that magnitude doesn’t cast a shadow over the ones coming after, not at all, but it is something to emulate. I always measured his voice category by what he did and that’s quite tough for younger people to cope with, I think, but nevertheless the benchmark is important - and, as you say, he had everything. Absolutely everything.”