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Fritz Wunderlich sings Operetta Arias
Fritz Wunderlich (tenor)
Chor Des Pfalztheaters Kaiserslautern,
Rundfunkorchester des Südwestfunks Kaiserslautern/Emmerich Smola
Kleines Unterhaltungsorchester des Südwestfunks/Willi Stech
Südfunk-Unterhaltungsorchester (Radio-Orchester Stuttgart)/Willi Mattes/Fritz Mareczek
rec. 1954-65
No Sung texts provided
SWR MUSIC SWR19038CD [51.38 + 67.15]

Few singers are as instantly recognizable as celebrated German tenor Fritz Wunderlich with his beautiful voice noted for its radiant tone and his talent for vocal expression marked by remarkable clarity of enunciation. In 2016 there was a flurry of releases to mark the fiftieth anniversary year of the much-loved tenor’s death. Consequently, I reviewed two of those anniversary albums: the first a single disc on BR Klassik (review) and the second a three CD set on Warner Classics (review). Both releases eminently display the breathtaking talents of Fritz Wunderlich, a singer cruelly snatched from the music world before his time.

Wunderlich had barely entered his prime when in 1966 he fell down a stone stairway at a friend’s castle in Heidelberg and died only a few days shy of his thirty-sixth birthday. With mainly German repertoire the lyric tenor was renowned for his beautiful voice and matinee-idol looks and became known in some quarters as the ‘golden tenor’. Wunderlich’s untimely death ensured that he never came close to achieving his potential although he had built up a considerable personal following in the opera house and concert hall. Wunderlich was especially celebrated for his Mozartian roles and the baritone Herman Prey described his friend and colleague as “incomparable as Tamino; his Don Ottavio had the virility I so often miss in this part; his Belmonte – with the tricky Baumeister aria – was fantastically secure.” In addition to Mozart roles Wunderlich’s opera repertoire was wider than one might imagine having sung roles as diverse as Ruggerio (Handel: Alcina), Sesto (Handel: Giulio Cesare), Almaviva (Rossini: Der Barbier Von Sevilla), Ernesto (Donizetti: Don Pasquale), Henry (R. Strauss: Die schweigsame Frau), Palestrina (Pfitzner: Palestrina) Mazal (Janáček: The Excursions of Mr. Brouček) and Tiresias (Orff: Oedipus der Tyrann) also concert performances including Mahler Das Lied von der Erde and the J.S. Bach Oratorios and Passions. Wunderlich was a noted Lieder recitalist and of course he performed several operetta roles notably Baron Kronthal (Lortzing: Der Wildschütz) and Alfred (Johann Strauss II: Die Fledermaus).

This double CD set comprises of thirty-one operetta arias sung by Wunderlich taken from the vast archives of regional public broadcaster Südwestrundfunk (SWR, Southwest Broadcasting) which covers southwest Germany. SWR produced this collection of recordings for radio broadcast between the years 1954-1965 using four studio locations: Kaiserslautern; Villa Berg Stuttgart; Sängerhalle Stuttgart and Freiburg. The original master tapes have been restored where necessary and digitally remastered by sound engineers Gabriele Starke and Boris Kellenbenz at SWR. Three orchestras are used on the set with most arias performed by the Rundfunkorchester des Südwestfunks Kaiserslautern under conductor Emmerich Smola. The remaining arias are conducted by Willi Stech, Willi Mattes and Fritz Mareczek. On only a couple of arias Wunderlich accompanied by a chorus namely Chor des Pfalztheaters Kaiserslautern.

Noticeably the majority of the arias are from what is described as the ‘Silver Age’ of Viennese operetta between 1900-1920 an era that followed the death of the king of operetta Johann Strauss II in 1899. From the roster of eleven chiefly Austrian composers providing the most arias is Robert Stolz (6) followed by Jean Gilbert (5), Emmerich Kálmán (4) and Charles Emmerich Kálmán (4), Walter Triebel (3), Nico Dostal (3), Franz Lehár (2) and a single aria each from Leo Fall, Hans May, Ralph Erwin and Richard Tauber. Exceptions to operettas are the single arias each from May and Erwin are taken from film score. The collection certainly does not concentrate on the best-known works and surely many listeners will be hearing these arias for the first time. Several of the arias are duets for tenor and soprano that Wunderlich gives with either Annemarie Henning, Franzi Wachmann, Ilse Hübener, Hertha Assmann and Frederike Sailer.

Remarkable is Wunderlich’s consistency of vocal excellence across all the arias on the collection and his renowned diction is as impeccable as one has come to expect. My highlights include the Emmerich Kálmán aria Wenn es Abend… Grüß mir mein Wien from Gräfin Mariza (Countess Maritza) with Wunderlich as Tassilo demonstrating his attractive sweet tone at its finest and showing how his striking high register opens so effortlessly. From Robert Stolz’s Mädi admirable are the duets Mädi, mein kleines Mädi and Zum ersten Mal allein with Wunderlich as Aribert and soprano Ilse Hübener in the title role providing such a heartwarming and mutually responsive display of voices blending together perfectly. Probably my favourite aria on the entire collection is the timeless classic Du bist die Welt für mich also well known by its English title (You mean the world to me) from the famous tenor Richard Tauber’s Der singende Traum (The Singing Dream) who is much less remembered as an operetta composer. The aria provides a splendid example of Wunderlich’s tender voice with his line so easily sustained and an ability to create such an affectionate mood. In truth the inclusion of two or three of the more enduringly popular operetta arias from Lehár and Kálmán would have added to the overall appeal.

Now over fifty years old the quality of the remastered radio broadcast sound is hard to fault and feels especially well balanced. There are no sung texts provided in the booklet which comes as no surprise for a substantial collection as this but it’s a major disappointment nevertheless.

These wanting to hear modern recordings of mainly Viennese operetta arias in a similar vein to this collection I can highly recommend albums by Piotr Beczała Heart's Delight - The Songs of Richard Tauber from 2014 on Deutsche Grammophon and Jonas Kaufmann with You Mean the World to Me also from 2014 on Sony (review)

The extraordinary voice of Fritz Wunderlich is at its sparkling best on this double set of operetta arias on SWR Music.

Michael Cookson

 
Contents
CD 1
Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
1. Allein, wieder allein (from Der Zarewitsch) [4.58]
Rec. 8.11.65 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
2. Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert (from Giuditta) [3.26]
Rec. 9.11.65 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
Emmerich KÁLMÁN (1882-1953)
3. Wenn es Abend … Grüß mir mein Wien (from Gräfin Mariza) [5.22]
Rec. 22.11.63 SWR Villa Berg, Stuttgart, Germany
4. Holdes berauschendes Bild (from Kaiserin Josephine) [4.03]
Rec. 21.2.58. SWR Sängerhalle, Stuttgart, Germany
5. Schön ist der Tag (from Kaiserin Josephine) [3.41]
Rec. 21.2.58. SWR Sängerhalle, Stuttgart, Germany
6. Du bist die Frau (from Kaiserin Josephine) [4.47]
Duet with soprano Annemarie Henning
Rec. 21.2.58. SWR Sängerhalle, Stuttgart, Germany
Leo FALL (1873-1925)
7. O Rose von Stambul (from Die Rose von Stambul) [3.45]
Rec. 8.11.65 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
Jean GILBERT (1879-1942)
8. Wenn die Füßchen sich heben (from Die keusche Susanne) [2.49]
Rec. 4.1.57 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
9. Niemals kann Liebe ganz vergehn (from Die keusche Susanne) [3.27]
Rec. 4.1.57 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
10. Wer kann dafür (from Die keusche Susanne) [5.35]
Duet with soprano Franzi Wachmann
Rec. 4.1.57 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
11. Mädels gibt es auf der Welt (from Das Weib in Purpur) [3.18]
Duet with soprano Franzi Wachmann
Rec. 4.1.57 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
12. Liebe und Glück, kehrt nicht zurück (from Uschi) [2.13]
Duet with soprano Franzi Wachmann
Rec. 4.1.57 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
Hans MAY (1886-1958)
13. Ein Lied geht um die Welt (from film, Ein Lied geht um die Welt ) [3.25]
Rec. 9.11.65 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
CD 2
Ralph ERWIN (1896-1945)
1. Ich küsse ihre Hand, Madame (from film, Ich küsse ihre Hand, Madame) [2.36]
Rec. 9.11.65 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
Robert STOLZ (1880-1975)
2. Mädi, mein kleines Mädi (from Mädi) [4.54]
Duet with soprano Ilse Hübener
Rec. 6.1.54 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
3. Zum ersten Mal allein (from Mädi) [3.09]
Duet with soprano Ilse Hübener
Rec. 6.1.54 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
4. Einmal hat mir zur Frühlingszeit das Gluck gelacht (from Prinzessin Ti-Ti-Pa) [5.06]
Rec. 6.1.54 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
5. Erst hab’ ich ihr Komplimente gemacht (from Venus in Seide) [3.16]
Rec. 5.1.54 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
6. Arrividerci, bella Italia (from Signorina) [3.10]
Rec. 11.7.55 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
7. Zwei sind verliebt (from Signorina) [4.46]
Duet with soprano Hertha Assmann
Rec. 11.7.55 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
Walter TRIEBEL (1908-1951)
8. Es gibt eine Frau, die mein Schicksal ist (from Pfälzer Wein) [2.54]
Rec. 26.3.57 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
9. Der Zauber liegt nur ganz allein (from Pfälzer Wein) [2.40]
Duet with soprano Frederike Sailor
Rec. 27.3.57 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
10. Pfälzer Wein – Melodienfolge (from Pfälzer Wein) [6.56]
Duet with soprano Frederike Sailor
Rec. 27.3.57 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
Nico DOSTAL (1895-1981)
11. Wie tanzen dort die Paare (from Extrablätter) [2.59]
Rec. 12.7.55 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
12. Es ist doch äußerst interessant (from Extrablätter) [4.05]
Duet with soprano Hertha Assmann
Rec. 12.7.55 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
13. Ihr schönen Frauen, wer kann an euch vorübergeh’n (from Kurier der Königin) [2.16]
Rec 15.9.56 SWR Studio Freiburg, Germany
Richard TAUBER (1891-1948)
14. Du bist die Welt für mich (from Der Singende Traum) [3.59]
Rec. 22.11.63 SWR Villa Berg, Stuttgart, Germany
Charles Emmerich KÁLMÁN (1929-2015)
15. Kleiner Cowboy (from Arizona Lady) [3.47]
Rec. 21.2.56 SWR Studio Freiburg, Germany
16. Wann kommt die eine (from Wir reisen um die Welt - Der Große Tenor) [3.54]
Rec. 11.7.58 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
17. Du allein schenkst mir Leben (from Wir reisen um die Welt - Der Große Tenor) [2.40]
Duet with soprano Hertha Assmann
Rec. 12.7.55 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
18. Ich träume nur von Liebe (from Wir reisen um die Welt - Der Große Tenor) [2.58]
Duet with soprano Hertha Assmann
Rec. 11.7.55 SWR Studio, Kaiserslautern Germany
Chor Des Pfalztheaters Kaiserslautern (CD 2: tracks 9, 10)
Rundfunkorchester des Südwestfunks Kaiserslautern/Emmerich Smola (CD 1: tracks 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13 - CD 2: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18)
Kleines Unterhaltungsorchester des Südwestfunks/Willi Stech (CD 2: tracks 13, 15)
Südfunk-Unterhaltungsorchester (Radio-Orchester Stuttgart)/Willi Mattes (CD 1: track 3 - CD 2: track 14)/Fritz Mareczek (CD 1: tracks 4, 5, 6)

 

 




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