Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's Winter Journey

By Cathy Fuller

When Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau died on May 18, the world lost a towering figure who changed his artform forever. While he sang in larger forms (including the world premiere of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem) and opera, it was in the art of lieder that Fischer-Dieskau had his greatest impact.

Art songs challenge performers in the same way the short story form challenges writers: the juxtapositions of character and dramatic arc demand attention to the subtlest of details. But unlike literature, and as with all forms of music, that attention has to be executed in real time. This is where Fischer-Dieskau was in a class of his own.

His ability wasn't just special in its quality, though. Because of the age in which he lived, technological advancements in recording allowed him to reach a wider audience than any lieder singer ever had before. His body of recordings no doubt changed the musical landscape forever.

He recorded Winterreise (Winter's Journey), one of Franz Schubert's most heart-wrenching and powerful pieces, numerous times, and it's my pleasure to bring you his 1972 account with pianist Gerald Moore. You can listen to each episode of Arias and Barcarolles below (with translation of the text, if you like). I invite you to also watch the video of the final song from Winterreise, from a performance with pianist Alfred Brendel:

Hear Part 1

Hear Part 2

Hear Part 3


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