From The Economist’s moving and evocative obituary of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who died on May 18th:
AS HE rubbed the horses down in the bitter cold and slush of the Eastern Front in 1943, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, then 18, sang songs into their ears. Brahms’s “Four Serious Songs”, perhaps, or a Bach cantata, both of which he had been learning before he was ordered to put on a Wehrmacht uniform. He himself never said what they were. But fans of the century’s best baritone suspected, indeed hoped, that they were from Schubert’s great, sad “Winterreise”, the Lieder cycle he made his own. He had sung it for the first time in public shortly before he left Berlin, interrupting it when the RAF strafed the street and the audience dived for the cellar, then resuming at the song called “Rückblick”, “A Backward Glance”. As he led the feeble horses out into the snowy Russian waste, humming and dreaming of the love and music left behind, he was the very figure of Schubert’s desolate winter traveller.