Beloved German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau dies at 86

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, the German baritone known for repopularizing lieder, the musical settings of mostly German poems from the 18th and 19th centuries, died on Friday at his home in Bavaria. He was 86.

Fischer-Dieskau lent his vocal talents to hundreds of Schubert songs (including, notably, the “Winterreise”) and later composers including Mahler and Shostakovich.

The star of European opera houses won a pair of Grammys in the early 1970s for a Schubert lieder and Brahms’ “Die Schöne Magelone.”

Albert Dietrich Fischer was born in Berlin on May 28, 1925, to Albert Fischer, a scholar and principal, and his second and much younger wife, Theodora Klingelhoffer, a schoolteacher.

Dietrich, as he was known, took the name from an ancestor who had been a Von Dieskau and the inspiration for J.S. Bach’s Peasant Cantata.

His childhood was marked with tragedies related to World War II: His father died when he was 12; his disabled brother was killed in a Nazi camp.

Fischer-Dieskau made his opera debut in 1948, followed by concerts in London and Scotland and an international career that spread across oceans to the United States and Japan.

Fischer-Dieskau officially retired from the stage in 1982 but continued with conducting, lecturing and occasionally performing concerts and recitals. He received honorary doctorates from Oxford and Yale, among other prestigious schools.

Fischer-Dieskau is survived by his fourth wife, soprano Júlia Várady, and three sons from his first marriage to cellist Irmgard Poppen, who died during childbirth in 1963.


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