The Polar Music Prize for 2005 is awarded to the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau for his unique artistry in every area of classical singing and for his unparalleled achievements as a penetrating and innovative interpreter of art songs in the German language.
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was born on 28 May 1925 in Berlin, the youngest of three sons. His father, a classical philologist with a doctor´s degree, worked as a principal in a school, and his mother was a teacher. One of his ancestors was Chamberlain von Dieskau, for whom Bach composed his “Peasant Cantata” in 1742.
Fischer-Dieskau’s talent for music was manifest at an early age. He took piano lessons and started to study singing in 1941 with Prof. Georg A. Walter. The following year he became a student of Prof. Hermann Weissenborn at the College of Music in Berlin. His first public appearance took place in 1942 at the church hall in Berlin-Zehlendorf, where he sang Schubert’s Winterreise with interruptions for air-raid warnings of the on-going World War II.
After graduating from high school in 1943 he was called up for military service and spent the time until 1947 as a prisoner of war in Italy, where he continued with his singing studies on his own. Back in Germany, he resumed his studies with Prof. Weissenborn. His real career as a singer began in 1947 when, without prior rehearsal, he substituted for a soloist who had taken ill, in Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem in Badenweiler. The official debut as a singer took place in the autumn of 1947 with a song recital in Leipzig, and shortly after that he made a successful appearance at the Titania Palace in Berlin.
In 1947 he also made his first phonograph recording of Winterreise. In the autumn of 1948 he was engaged as a lyric baritone at the Städtische Oper in Berlin, where his first appearance, as Posa in Verdi’s opera Don Carlos under the baton of Ferenc Fricsay, aroused a great deal of public attention.
"Le miracle Fischer-Dieskau"
The critics praised time and again his exact and finely chiseled interpretations and the enormous wealth of nuances in his voice. As an opera singer Fischer-Dieskau performed mainly at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin and at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich.
He gave guest performances at Wiener Staatsoper in Vienna, Covent Garden in London, Staatsoper in Hamburg, the King´s Theatre in Edinburgh and also on a number of occasions in Japan. He toured the United States in 1955 and gave song recitals and concerts; his first appearance at Carnegie Hall in New York was in 1964. He gave his first song recital in Stockholm in 1959.
Being a lyric baritone and conductor of classical music, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is one of the most famous Lieder performers during the 20th century. “Lied” – “song” in German, usually describes the setting of romantic German poems to music, especially during the nineteenth century, beginning with Carl Loewe, Heinrich Marschner, and Franz Schubert. Among English speakers, “lied” is often used interchangeably with “art song” to encompass works that the tradition has inspired in other languages. The poetry forming the basis for lieder often centers upon pastoral themes, or themes of romantic love.
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau set lasting standards for the interpretation of Lieder with the characteristic precision in his diction, in which the articulation of every word led to the equal importance of text and music. His efforts in the propagation of the mainly Romantic Lieder tradition were unbounded. Throughout the course of decades he has set higher standards, tried out new paths and interpreted undreamed-of human emotions.
From music to art
On December 31st, 1992, Fischer-Dieskau brought to an end his public singing career of more than 45 years with a concert in Munich. In spite of this he continued to be active within music: a climax in his extensive work as a teacher was his master class of studies of the Wolf-Mörike songs at the Hugo Wolf Days in St. Paul, Austria, in 2004. In 2003 and 2004 he appeared as a conductor and reciter at the Salzburg Festivals, and in 2003 he finished writing his 15th book, a highly acclaimed biography of Hugo Wolf. In parallell with his musical career he also made time for “what I have always wanted to do”, and attracted some attention as a pictorial artist. From the 1980s and onwards, his paintings have been displayed at more than twenty exhibitions. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau passed away in July 2012 at the age of 86.
Stockholm, May 2005
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau received the Polar Music Prize together with Brazilian artist and cultural politician Gilberto Gil. Fischer-Dieskau could not travel to Stockholm due to health problems, his nephew Dr. Thomas Fischer-Dieskau received the Polar Music Prize on his uncle’s behalf.