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Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
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Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

The German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (born May 28, 1925) is regarded by many as the finest lieder singer of his generation. He was greatly admired for his interpretations and the tonal qualities and shadings of color in his voice. Fischer-Dieskau also performed and recorded many operatic roles.

Fischer-Dieskau was born in Berlin. He started singing as a child and began formal voice lessons at age sixteen. When he was drafted into the Wehrmacht in 1943, Fischer-Dieskau had just completed his secondary school studies and one semester at the Berlin Conservatory. He was captured in Italy in 1945 and spent two years as an American prisoner of war.

In 1947, he returned to Germany where he launched his professional career as a singer in Badenweiler when he sang in Brahms' German Requiem without any rehearsal -- he was a last-minute substitute for a singer who was indisposed. He gave his first lieder recital in Leipzig in the fall of 1947 and followed it soon afterward with a highly successful first concert at Berlin's Titania-Palast.

In the fall of 1948, Fischer-Dieskau was engaged as principal lyric baritone at the Berlin State Opera, making his debut as Posa in Verdi's Don Carlos under Ferenc Fricsay. Subsequently, Fischer-Dieskau made guest appearances at the opera houses in Vienna and Munich. After 1949 made concert tours in England, Holland, Switzerland, France and Italy. In 1951, he made his Salzburg Festival concert debut with Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer under Wilhelm Furtwängler. He made regular opera appearances at the Bayreuth Festival between 1954 and 1961 and at the Salzburg Festival from 1956 until the early 1970s.

As an opera singer, Fischer-Dieskau performed mainly at Berlin and at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. He also made guest appearances at the Vienna State Opera, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London, at the Hamburg State Opera, in Japan, and at the King's Theatre in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festival. His first concert tour in the United States took place in 1955, and he gave his first lieder recital at New York City's Carnegie Hall in 1964.

In 1951, Fischer-Dieskau made his first recordings of lieder with the pianist Gerald Moore, EMI Studios, London; they performed and recorded frequently until the latter's retirement in 1967 and were renowned above all for their performances of Franz Schubert.

Fischer-Dieskau also performed many works of contemporary music, including Benjamin Britten, Samuel Barber, Hans Werner Henze, Ernst Krenek, Witold Lutoslawski, Siegfried Matthus, Winfried Zillig, Gottfried von Einem and Aribert Reimann.

Fischer-Dieskau retired from the concert hall in 1992.