Friday, May 18, 2012

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (1925-2012)

The New York Times obituary describes Fischer-Dieskau's experience as a German in World War II:

[I]n 1943, he was drafted into the Wehrmacht and assigned to care for army horses on the Russian front. He kept a diary there, calling it his “attempt at preserving an inner life in chaotic surroundings.” . . .

“Lots of cold, lots of slush, and even more storms,” read [one entry]. “Every day horses die for lack of food.”

It was in Russia that he heard that his mother had been forced to send his brother to an institution outside Berlin. “Soon,” he wrote later, “the Nazis did to him what they always did with cases like his: they starved him to death as quickly as possible.”

And then his mother’s apartment in Lichterfelde was bombed. Granted home leave to help her, he found that all that remained of their possessions could be moved to a friend’s apartment in a handcart. But as early as his second day home, he and his mother began seeking out “theater, concerts, a lot of other music — defying the irrational world.”

Instead of returning to the disastrous campaign in Russia, he was diverted to Italy along with thousands of other German soldiers. There, on May 5, 1945, just three days before the Allies accepted the German surrender, he was captured and imprisoned. It turned out to be musical opportunity: soon the Americans were sending him around to entertain other P.O.W.’s from the back of a truck. The problem was, they were so pleased with this arrangement that they kept him until June 1947. He was among the last Germans to be repatriated.
Here's Fischer-Dieskau singing "Gute Nacht," from Schubert's Winterreise (with Murray Perahia on piano):

Many of the comments on that YouTube video were posted today, echoing the song title:
Gute Nacht, meine freund ;(

(The third movement from A German Requiem by Brahms.)


Richard Dolan said...

Lieder has lost its greatest contemporary champion and one of its greatest practitioners of all time. I had the pleasure of hearing him sing in the '70s and '80s, including the Winterreise. Wonderfully sensitive musician, and by all accounts a consummate gentleman. He was lieder's sweet prince. Gute nacht.

But I suspect he's entertaining the worthies on the other side of the great divide even now -- can't imagine that he could never stop making music.