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.

Chapter: Musical Education

Musical education

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.

Dieskau-portrait

 

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.

Hochschule für Musik, Hardenbergstrasse, Berlin, 1937 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The Dieskau family coat of arms. (Photo: Siebmacher wappenbuch)
Johann Strauss II (1825-1899) with Johannes Brahms (1833–1897). Photo was taken at Bad Ischl in 1894. (Photo: Rudolf Krziwanek, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
Chapter: The official debut

The official debut

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. His 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.

Fischer-Dieskau's recording of Schubert's Winterreise with accompanist Gerald Moore. He also recorded the work with pianists Daniel Barenboim and Jörg Demus.

In the same year, 1947, he 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.

Hillevi Martinpelto and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, "Morgen! Op. 27:4" at the Polar Music Prize ceremony.
Verdi's Don Carlos
Chapter: Le miracle

"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.

Dieskau-deutsche-oper
Deutsche Oper Berlin – sculpture by Hans Uhlmann on Bismarckstraße. By Photo: Andreas Praefcke, via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Chapter: Lieder

Lieder

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. Dieskau-Schubert_Winterreise_Mandyczewski The poetry forming the basis for lieder often centers upon pastoral themes, or themes of romantic love.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau - "Im Frühling"
Marschner (1795-1861)
Schubert (1797-1828)
Loewe (1796-1869)
Christa Ludwig sings "Der Tod und das Mädchen" by Schubert
Lieder

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.

"Morgen" by Strauss - Wolfgang Sawallish at piano, 1974
Chapter: From music to art

From music to art

On 31 December 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 is still active: a climax in his extensive work as a teacher was his master class at the Hugo Wolf Days in St. Paul, Austria, in July 2004, where all the Wolf-Mörike songs were studied and performed. 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. Since 1960 he has also made time for “what I have always wanted to do”, and has attracted some attention as a pictorial artist; since 1980 his paintings have been displayed at more than twenty exhibitions.

Chapter: The polar music prize

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.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's nephew Dr. Thomas Fischer-Dieskau receiving the Polar Music Prize on his uncle's behalf. (Photo: © Polar Music Prize)
Hillevi Martinpelto at the Polar Music Prize ceremony (Photo: © Polar Music Prize)
Gilberto Gil, the other Laureate of 2005 with the Royal Family in the audience at the Stockholm Concert Hall. (Photo: © Polar Music Prize)