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strange meeting

The death yesterday of the great German baritone Districh Fischer-Dieskau at the age of 86 was all the more poignant for me because of his connection with a musical project I’m currently involved with.

In 11 days time, as a member of the CBSO Chorus, I’ll be taking part in the 50th anniversary performance of Benjamin’s ‘War Requiem’ in Coventry Cathedral.

Of course it was Fischer-Dieskau, who took part in that first performance and for whom Britten specifically wrote the baritone role.

Famously, accounts reveal how F-D was moved to tears by the emotion of the occasion and the power of the music.

In his memoirs a few years later, Fischer-Dieskau wrote: ‘I was completely undone… I did not know where to hide my face … dear friends and past suffering rose in my mind.’

Britten’s explanation was that it was caused by singing the sequence based on Wilfred Owen’s poem ‘Strange Meeting.’

Michael Foster’s new book ‘The Idea Was Good’ about ‘War Requiem,’ which I posted about recently (7th May 2012), details Fischer-Dieskau’s role in the work’s creation and that first performance.

All that artistry and musicianship are evident in the 1963 recording of the work featuring Fischer-Dieskau at his superb best.

War Requiem – Strange Meeting

The Guardian – Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau obituary

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