Fritz Wunderlich (tenor) - Hits from the 50s
Orchestras conducted by Willi Stech, Emmerich Smola and Willy Mattes
rec. by SWR 1953-1965 SWR MUSIC SWR19029CD [68:32 + 74:38]
The German tenor Fritz Wunderlich was born in September 1930 and died in an accident in 1966, a little more than a week before his 36th birthday. He was generally regarded as one of the foremost Mozart singers and a very accomplished Lieder-singer but with his extremely beautiful voice, his light-hearted manner and his down-to-earth folksiness he became a very popular Schlager-Sänger in Germany – not least through numerous appearances on the radio. In connection with the 50th anniversary of his death, the SWR, South-West Radio, have issued material from their archives, almost 2½ hours of hitherto unpublished recordings, covering around 12 years, which is practically all of his career.
The German popular music of the 50s and 60s rarely reached beyond the borders of the German speaking countries. One exception was the Austrian singer Lolita’s ‘Seemann’ (Sailor), which was hit song in both USA, the UK and Japan in 1960; there may be others, but even though I in my youth used to listen to some German radio stations I can’t remember hearing any of the songs recorded here – apart from international hits like Bixio’s ‘Parlami d'amore, Mariù’, Lara’s ‘Granada’ and Ponce’s ‘Estrellita’. But many of the composers represented here were very successful and names like Franz Grothe, Willy Mattes, Hans Busch and Rudolf Kattnigg are still remembered. The songs here are generally agreeable, melodious – and some of them easily forgotten. But sung by an artist of the calibre of Fritz Wunderlich they are well worth a listen. His beautiful voice, his sense of style and deep involvement pays dividends also in this repertoire. He doesn’t kill simple songs with operatic treatment, everything is tastefully sung. His honeyed voice perfectly suits the songs. There are some very good arrangements as well and here and there we get a little nice instrumental solo: an oboe, a French horn and some trumpet solos. And they are especially interesting, since they are played by Fritz Wunderlich himself, who also was a good horn-player and pianist. He ran his own dance band and in the booklet there is a photo of him playing the trumpet with one hand while holding an accordion with the other. In the track-list some songs have an asterisk indicating a trumpet solo, but those asterisks are more misses than hits. On CD 1 there are four songs marked with an asterisk, but I can’t hear a trumpet anywhere. On CD 2 there are two further asterisks, and, lo and behold, the second of them (tr. 11) is indeed a trumpet solo, and it is impressively played. And as a bonus we get two more trumpet solos, not asterisked, (tr. 17 and 18) of which tr. 18 is very high indeed.
All the songs are digitally remastered from the original tapes, and considering that the earliest are from 1953 the sound is amazingly good. The conductors also knew their trade and the playing of the orchestras impeccable. German Radio orchestras were renowned for their high standards – and still are.
If I would venture to pick some titles that I can contemplate returning to I would first mention the traditional ‘Tiritomba’ where Wunderlich is truly glorious; the tango ‘Bella Maria’ is certainly attractive and the two concluding songs on CD 1, Bixio’s ‘Parlami d’amore, Mariù’ and Willy Mattes’ ‘Melodia con passion’. On CD 2 ‘Granada’ is a version to challenge Mario Lanza’s classic recording; the simple and soft ‘Singende Gitarre’, very beautifully performed. Listen also to the beautiful oboe intro to ‘Mutterlied’, Franz Grothe’s ‘Kleine Melodie’, the impassioned singing in Willy Mattes’ ‘Deine Liebe ist mein ganzes Leben’ and the glorious final number, Ponce’s ‘Estrellita’.
The death of Fritz Wunderlich robbed the world of a marvellous voice and we must be grateful to destiny that he didn’t follow the advice from many people to embark on a career as a pop singer. His daughter writes very personally about her father in the booklet and tells the story about the first rehearsal for his debut in a major role at the Stuttgart state opera. The director was Günther Rennert and the rehearsal was a disaster since Wunderlich realised that he knew nothing about acting. He came home and told his wife: “Rennert asked me to come for an individual rehearsal tomorrow. If I fail, I’ll become a pop singer and chuck in the opera!” Luckily he didn’t fail, but if he had he would no doubt have been a successful pop singer to judge from what we hear on these two packed CDs.
Fritz Wunderlich’s beautiful voice and winning personality is worth hearing in whatever repertoire he chose, and this twofer is no exception.
Göran Forsling Track Listing
CD 1 [68:32] Hans ANDERS (? - ?)
1. Wenn der Mund schweigt [3:27] Curt HASENPFLUG (? - ?)
2. Von Liebe und von Glück [3:58] Hermann KROME
3. Sonne über Capri [4:51] Will MEISEL
4. Schön ist jeder Tag, Marie-Louise [3:30] Franz GROTHE (1908 – 1982)
5. Mon bijou [3:08] Günter GEORGY-ENGELHARD (? - ?)
6. Gondel, gleite du hinaus [3:44] Hans BERNER (? - ?)
7. Carissima mia [3:52] Trad.
8. Tiritomba [3:06] Franz GROTHE
9. Serenade der Nacht [3:27] Edmund KASPER (? - ?)
10. Bella Maria [3:40] Friedrich MEYER (1915 – 1993)
11. O cara Marie [1:56] Hans MAY (1886 – 1958)
12. Der Duft, der eine schöne Frau begleitet [4:10] Hans ANDERS
13. Nacht überm See [3:56] Tibor INCZÉDY (? - ?)
14. Glückswalzer [3:35] Emil KAISER (1853 – 1929)
15. Veilchen, Liebe, Frühling und du [3:43] Toni LEUTWILER (1923 – 2009)
16. Florentiner Mai [6:11] Cesare Andrea BIXIO (1896 – 1978)
17. Sprich zu mir von Liebe, Mariù (Parlami d'amore, Mariù) [3:41] Willy MATTES (1916 – 2002)
18. Melodia con passione [3:31]
CD 2 [74:38] Agustin LARA (1897 – 1970)
1. Granada [4:29] Hans ANDERS
2. Wolken geh’n am Himmel [3:48] Leo KOWALSKI (1911 – 1984)
3. Singende Gitarre [3:05] Hans MOLTKAU (1911 – 1994)
4. Niemals lass ich dich allein [3:38] Toni LEUTWILER
5. Es gibt eine Zeit (Frühlingszeit) [2:45] Walter MEHRING (? - ?)
6. Ich lebe für dich [3:00] Tibor INCZÉDY
7. Das Lied der Liebe sing ich dir allein [3:31] Rudolf KATTNIGG (1895 – 1955)
8. Man sagt sich du [2:50] Hans BUSCH (1909 – 1996)
9. Viele schöne Tage [2:39] Hanno HANSON (? - ?)
10. Mutterlied [5:24] Erich BÖRSCHEL (1907 – 1988)
11. Lass mich niemals mehr allein [2:49] Franz GROTHE
12. Kleine Melodie [3:22] Walter JÄGER (1901 – 1975)
13. Mädele [2:57] Toni LEUTWILER
14. Narzissen aus Montreux [4:50] Hermann KROME
15. Über’s Meer grüß ich dich, Heimatland [3:54] Lawrence „Larry“ COLEMAN (? - ?)
16. Walzer der Liebe [2:11] Maurus KATT (? - ?)
17. Wenn mein Herz Heimweh hat [2:51] Hans MOLTKAU
18. Geh nicht fort! [3:51] Willy MATTES
19. Deine Liebe ist mein ganzes Leben [3:24] Georg HILLER (? - ?)
20. Du sollst nicht traurig sein [3:58] Manuel Maria PONCE (1882 – 1948)
21. Estrellita [4:04]