Opera and Concert Singer. One of the premier baritones of the post-war era, he shall be remembered for his operatic performances but probably more so for his countless elegant recital presentations of the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert, Wolf, Brahms, and others. Born to a well off family, he learned the piano from his mother, began formal voice training at 16, and was a student at the Berlin Conservatory when he was drafted into the German Army. Sent to the Russian front, he was assigned horse tending duty but was captured and spent two years as an American prisoner-of-war during which time he refined his art by singing for the guards and other prisoners at numerous camps. Released in 1947, he made his professional stage debut at Badenweiler in Brahms' "Ein Deutsche Requiem" and the next year had his operatic bow with Deutsche Oper Berlin as the Marquis de Posa from Verdi's "Don Carlos". His initial appearances with the Vienna State Opera (VSO) and the Bavarian State Opera of Munich, where he was designated Kammersanger in 1959, soon followed and he quickly found himself in demand throughout Europe. Fischer-Dieskau had a busy year in 1951 as he made the first of his 123 appearances at the Salzburg Festival performing Mahler's "Songs of a Wayfarer", had his London debut at the Royal Albert Hall in Frederic Delius' "A Mass of Life", and saw his initial collaboration with legendary piano accompanist Gerald Moore when he recorded Schubert's "Die schone Mullerin" for EMI. Though he gave recitals the world over, his opera appearances were largely confined to Germany and Austria, his repertoire including the Wagnerian roles of Wolfram in "Tannhauser", Amfortis from "Parsifal", Hans Sachs in "Die Meistersinger", Kurwenal of "Tristan und Isolde", and Wotan of "The Ring Cycle", as well as Iago of Verdi's "Otello" (One critic commented that he was too aristocratic for the part, as his Iago would have never been passed-over for promotion in the first place), Count Almaviva from Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro", Papageno of the same composer's "The Magic Flute", the evil Police Chief Scarpia of Puccini's "Tosca", and at least three of Verdi's title leads, the tragic "Rigoletto" and "Macbeth" and, with much costume padding, the hilarious "Falstaff". Mr. Fischer-Dieskau made his American bow on April 15, 1955 in Cincinnati with Bach's "Kreuzstab Cantata" and his subsequent New York debut at Town Hall presenting Schubert's "Die Winterreise", one of his signature pieces, accompanied by Mr. Moore, then later that same year was first heard at Wagner's Bayreuth Festspielhaus. A revered figure in West Germany, he was instrumental in bringing his land back into the European fold after World War II, being selected by Benjamin Britten for the 1962 world premiere of "The War Requiem" and in 1971 becoming the first German to sing in Israel. Though he retired from the operatic stage in 1978, he continued his busy recital schedule thru 1992, then remained active as a respected conductor, teacher, and competition judge. The winner of two Grammy Awards, in 1971 for a Schubert disc and in 1973 for Brahms' "Die Schone Magelone", he was the recipient of multiple honourary doctorates from institutions including Oxford and Yale and in 2012 was inducted into the Grammophone Hall of Fame. At his death from the infirmities of age most of his massive recorded legacy including numerous complete operas and virtually the entire canon of German lieder appropriate for male voice remained in print.
Bio by: Bob Hufford