What Did It For Me – Chapter 4, by Charles Kerry

Charles Kerry in his domain, Glyndebourne

What Charles Kerry says about himself:

Charles Kerry was the bass soloist with the Alexeyev Balalaika Ensemble, then for many years a member of the Glyndebourne Chorus, singing several roles on tour.

What Charles Kerry says about music:

I had heard of Schubert but not of Winterreise. The name Gerald Moore rang a bell, but not Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. One day the German master brought into school a gramophone and two recent – 1955 – LPs. During an upbringing not so much unmusical as anti-musical I had heard many a hymn and psalm, and many a snatch of Harry Davidson and his orchestra between resounding belches of interference from the wireless (never then radio). This was something strange. How could a long succession of songs of misery hold the attention so in thrall?

And the singing. Am I right, I wondered, to be so awestruck by the pliability, the sensuous tone and the ever-alert intelligence? I envy my young self the experience of hearing the great baritone for the first time. All singers have their foibles, and Fischer-Dieskau’s prominence in a vast repertory has given us every opportunity to become aware of his. The warmth which he evidently brought to his study of the music could sometimes be lost in performances which partook more of illustrated lecture than of re-creation. Several singers, and not the sort to speak from jealousy, have dismissed his mezza voce as a fake. Well, it carried to the back of the house, it was secure, it bore the text with perfect clarity, and it was extraordinarily beautiful. Let’s have more fakery.

A few days after Fischer-Dieskau died I heard his 1957 recording with Günther Weissenborn of Schumann’s Kerner songs. The intensely responsive singing has hardly a hint of the meddlesomeness with which he is so often taxed, he spins a line in which any Italian baritone might take pride, and the tone is as lovely in forte as in piano. Yet even if we were never to hear another recorded note from him, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau would live on in the standards he raised. We owe him admiration and gratitude.

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One Response to What Did It For Me – Chapter 4, by Charles Kerry

  1. Bryan Jenner says:

    Charles,

    I had a very similar experience during A-level German preparation, except that my German master brought in Fischer-Dieskau singer Wolf’s Mörike-Lieder.
    FD was my lodestar for more than 40 years after that.

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