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An acquired taste

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in Munich,


Seeing the legendary German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in person is a rare treat these days and so, when the opportunity arose, we decided to attend. Like most of the younger generation nowadays, we knew him by reputation, from CDs and records, but had never seen him in person. 19 February 2006 in Munich was the chance, where he appeared as orator at a matinée at the Gärtnerplatz theatre, the city's 'second' opera house after the State Opera, which for the past ten years has been under the musical directorship of the well-known American conductor David Stahl.

Fischer-Dieskau, eighty last year, had a career that was and still is quite extraordinary: celebrated opera and Lieder singer, long-time partner of the famous accompanist Gerald Moore, friend of the likes of Benjamin Britten in whose house he even had a guest room. Not to mention his other talents: as a painter his works can be quite reminiscent of those of Max Beckmann. He is also a rather good conductor when he does decide to take the baton. But while the German singer has a reputation for brilliance, he also has one for emotional detachment. His Winterreise has once been described as technically brilliant but also as lacking in emotional involvement. Yet, at some stage, he has also been described as the 'most brilliant Lieder singer in the world'.

In 1993, Fischer-Dieskau retired from singing and now performs pieces for orator with music when he does take to the stage. Usually, this happens at places like Salzburg and so it was nice that he decided to grace Munich audiences with his presence. And presence he certainly has. Tall, dignified and at age eighty looking some twenty years younger, he comes across like the star that he still is to many people around the globe, despite the fact that he no longer sings publicly.

On the programme was Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte (Op 41) for orator, piano and string quartet (1942) by Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), followed by Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944)'s Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke in the version for orator and piano.

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Copyright © 5 March 2006 Tess Crebbin and Sissy von Kotzebue, Germany


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