No, it's not Donna Summer. (Had to say that!)
Anyone who knows me at all probably knows right away who it was. It is the Lieder and opera baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. I read it on Norman Lebrecht's blog. As soon as I saw his headline, "The world's greatest Lieder singer is dead," I knew who it was. He was probably the greatest singer in the world by any account.
Up above is DFD singing the beautiful Bach cantata "Ich habe genug." It is about death and people all over the world are commenting on the video, posting their RIPs, mourning his death. This is a big one, a big loss.
It's tough, you know, being into music. You lose people. In Gusto today there is this interview I did with cabaret singer Michael Feinstein and I asked him about this. I asked him if it was tough for him losing people he has admired and known, people like Ira Gershwin and Rosemary Clooney.
There was this brief silence and then Feinstein gave me this brief, cool answer about how he believes the spirit goes on, and nothing is lost.Well, I mean, I am Catholic, I take it seriously, I believe in a world without end. And I guess it was a dumb question to ask. Still, I am sorry, it's tough. I think of musicians I loved, old people, whom I miss. The pianist Leonard Pennario, of course, I got very close to him in his last year, and I think of him every day. But there are others, too, from a variety of genres. I was friends with the old Delta blues musician Robert Jr. Lockwood. I stayed at his house once. I hated when he died, even though he was in his 90s. Closer to home, I still miss the Buffalo jazz pianist Al Tinney. I met my husband going to see Al Tinney.
I did not know Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau personally but we had a brief but glorious correspondence. When I was 16 I wrote him a letter telling him my favorite Schubert songs which, I have to say, I still love. There was the galloping Scottish swashbuckling song "Normans Gesang," irresistible to a teenager ...
... and the dreamy "Nacht und Traume"...
... and "Das Lied im Gruenen," the song of the greenery.
I happened to hear my parents giggling about my letter. "He'll never write to her," my dad said. But Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau did write back to me, and pretty quickly. He sent me an autographed picture of himself in Strauss' "Die Frau Ohne Schatten."
I wrote back to him thanking him, getting more mileage out of the correspondence. He sent me another picture, wrote something else on the back, I forget what. I will have to go look. God love Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. He was the greatest.
It is too bad he was too big to come to Buffalo. We do not have good luck in the singers department. Someone like Fischer-Dieskau, he might go to New York or Toronto, but not here.
Tim Kennedy, the head of Buffalo Opera Unlimited, he caught Fischer-Dieskau's act in Philadelphia, I think it was. Tim Kennedy told me that the performance was so riveting that his foot fell asleep because he was sitting so long without moving. He did not even notice!
One of the many things I hate about that Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has died is I will never get to meet him. He would have been fascinating to interview. I do not think he had a biographer to do him justice. His own memoir, "Reverberations," is pretty good, but the few books I have seen that other people have written about him are dull as dirt. That's a shame.
For a long time now it has been on my mind that the ax was going to fall. Just as recently as yesterday, I was looking at the Wall Street Journal over coffee and I thought: one of these days I am going to see that Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has died, and I am going to feel so bad. Even though he is almost 87. It is tough losing someone who has been in the backdrop of your life for so long.
That was just yesterday I thought that. Well, I thought about it a lot.
God bless Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. The world will not be the same to me without him in it.
-- Mary Kunz Goldman