Léonie Sonning Awards 1975

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

The German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau received the Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 65,000 in connection with a concert held at 8pm on Tuesday, 6 May 1975 in Odd-Fellow Palæet. 

The music prize was presented by Børge Friis, Dr.Phil.

The programme

Lieder to poems by Joseph von Eichendorff eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
F. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Das Waldschloss
Robert Schumann In der Fremde
Schöne Fremde
Im Walde
Der Einsiedler
Hans Pfitzner Im Herbst
In Danzig
Der verspätete Wanderer
Bruno Walther Der Soldat
Der junge Ehemann
R. Schwarz-Schilling Kurze Fahrt
Bist du manchmal auch verstimmt
Hugo Wolf In der Fremde
Der Musikant
Seemanns Abschied

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, song
Tamás Vásáry, piano


The Léonie Sonning Music Prize of DKK 65,000 is hereby awarded to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in profound admiration of his comprehensive and epoch-making contribution to the art of song.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in Denmark

In 1975, Fischer-Dieskau had not been in Denmark for five years. He had prepared thoroughly for the Prize Concert, for from 4 March until 5 April he had toured with his pianist Tamás Vásáryand sung the Eichendorff programme in no less than 16 cities everywhere in Germany.

In the printed programme, he did a great deal to ensure that the audience understood the background to the songs and the attraction Eichendorff’s poems exerted on many composers from different generations – poems/songs that expressed the Romantic poet’s experience of nature – with the sound of horns ringing out through the mountains or forests and the song of nightingales in the moonlight.

 In connection with the prize-giving ceremony, Fischer-Dieskau had naturally been asked to either teach or give a lecture to the students at the academies of music, but he did not have time for this. Nor to participate in an opera at The Royal Theatre.

Selected Music by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

The daily press

wrote, among other things:

"And then he sang. One felt that there had not been singing like this in Copenhagen for years [...] He has reached a point that only the greatest and fewest musicians attain, one where the expression has achieved a naturalness as a higher form of the spoken language. The art of song taken to so high a level is like a narrative art that in a logical and self-evident way has tone and sound as constituents. It was quite captivating to be present at. [...] The Sonning Music Prize had another name added to its list, and the audience enjoyed an evening that is a rare occurrence nowadays."

(Robert Naur, Politiken, 7 May 1975)

"[…] And behind this amazing vocal magnificence and control, Fischer-Dieskau places all his great experience, his indisputable intelligence and – more than anything else – his brilliant musicality."

(Torben Thune, Vejle Amts Folkeblad, 23 May 1975)

"As a singer of Lieder he like is not to be found in history, both as regards the extent of his contribution and the uniformly high level [...] At times, one hears the assertion that the tradition concert form is dead. Idle talk on the part of ignoramuses, for whom it has never been alive. Fetch Fischer-Dieskau – and it works perfectly. Like being together with a maestro who came with sheer perfection, like an inexorable appeal on behalf of art by virtue of bewitching professionalism [...] But more determinative for him is the total and apparently definitive integration of all elements of expression in every single lyrical miniature, as for example in Pfitzner’s Lockung, alternating subtly between the magic of a consonant in ‘duftet’ and of vowels in ‘hier ist’s so kühl’. This makes the phrases speak out, so one feels they must also be unequivocal and immediately understandable even though one had no knowledge of German."

(Hansgeorg Lenz, Information, 9 May 1975)

"The Léonie Sonning Music Prize has gone to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and on Tuesday evening in return for receiving the DKK 65,000 from Børge Friis, Dr.Phil. he gave a masterful performance of an entire programme of songs with texts by Joseph von Eichendorff.

Fischer-Dieskau began with Mendelssohn and sang both the intimate Nachtlied, which he hummed on his own death-bed, and the sprightly Pagenlied.

In similar fashion, Fischer-Dieskau alternated in the following section between more pathetic songs of every kind by Schumann, Pfitzner, Bruno Walter, the here unknown Berliner professor theory Schwarz-Schilling, and Hugo Wolf and lively narrative or highly dramatic songs. This meant that he completed the magic circle of his unique interpretative ability several time, enchanted with the wealth of nuance his singing possess as well as his unrivalled sense of form. These songs cannot be sung with truer musicality.

The evening was Fischer Dieskau’s, but he was not completely alone. He had Tamás Vásáry as well as his accompanist. More vivid and energising piano accompaniment is only heard on a few fortunate occasions. He will not be forgotten in a hurry."

(Nils Schiørring, Berlingske Tidende)