Fritz Wunderlich (tenor)
rec. 1957-1965 SWR MUSICSWR19032CD [72:48]
The German radio archives are formidable treasure chests for the many admirers of the late lamented Fritz Wunderlich, who died in an accident a few days before his 36th birthday. The majority of the excerpts published here are from German operas, with three numbers from Italian operas thrown in for good measure. Two of these are sung in German, which was normal in Germany at the time, but we are lucky to have La donna è mobile in Italian, a blessing since the German translation littered with ach-lauts and knotty consonants defying every attempt at a smooth line.
The opening number, Fenton’s aria from Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor is gloriously sung, full-throated but elegant. He recorded the opera complete a couple of years later. Albert Lortzing’s operas still have a foothold in the German-speaking world, at least Zar und Zimmermann and Der Wildschütz. The two represented here are less frequently played but they are musically attractive and Wunderlich is really in his element. The fairly well-known Vater, Mutter … from Undine has probably never been sung with such elegance and glow. I had a feeling I had heard the three Lortzing arias before with Wunderlich and checking a Regis disc (review) I found them in the same recordings as here. The duet (tr. 4) is also a fine piece. Here he is partnered by the excellent soprano Friederike Sailer. Born in 1920 she was a resident artist at the Stuttgart Opera for many years from 1952 and during that period Wunderlich was also a member of the roster. They recorded operetta duets together.
Peter Cornelius’s Der Barbier von Bagdad is not completely forgotten either. I have reviewed two complete sets, one of them the legendary Leinsdorf recording from the mid-1950s with Schwarzkopf and Gedda – which is well worth acquiring even though it is in mono only (review). The highlight of that recording was, to my mind, the duet with Abdul (Oskar Czerwenka) and Nureddin (Nicolai Gedda). Wunderlich here sings opposite the ebullient Kurt Böhme, one of the best German basses for many years.
Even people who don’t buy complete opera recordings may know the Don Carlos – Posa duet from the first act of the four-act version of Verdi’s Don Carlos through the famous 1950 recording with Jussi Björling and Robert Merrill. Raymond Wolansky, born in the US in 1926, went to Europe in the early 1950s and eventually landed in Stuttgart where he was a mainstay primarily in Italian repertoire. He is a very good Posa here and Wunderlich has the measure for the title role, making this a very attractive recording, in spite of being sung in the wrong language. Hans in Die verkaufte Braut – or The Bartered Bride in English – was a role that also suited Wunderlich to perfection. He recorded the opera complete in the early 60s with the tremendous Gottlob Frick as Kezal (review). On the present disc that role is taken by Kurt Böhme, also a great singer and actor. Their interplay is formidable and Wunderlich sings with such lyric glow.
There are several relative rarities on this disc, none more so than the act I finale from Kienzl’s Der Kuhreigen. He was a prolific composer and wrote ten operas, of which the third, Der Evangelimann (1895) is still occasionally revived. Der Kuhreigen (1911) had a brief bout of popularity and Richard Tauber recorded two tenor arias from it. It is valuable to have this substantial scene available and it has its attractions.
The final number on this disc is, together with La donna è mobile, the only standard arias in the programme. E lucevan le stelle sung in German finds Wunderlich in glorious voice and deeply involved he is.
The original SWR tapes have been carefully and laboriously remastered by Gabriele Starke and Boris Kellenbenz and they have written a long article about their work, printed in the booklet. It is a great service of SWR to be able to present to public these wonderful recordings of the immortal Fritz Wunderlich. Fifty years after his death he can still enchant us with his singing. If you love great singing – give this disc a listen!
Contents Otto NICOLAI (1810 – 1849)
Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor:
1. Horch, die Lerche singt im Hain [4:49] Albert LORTZING (1801 – 1851)
2. Man wird ja nur einmal geboren [4:46]
3. War einst ein junger Springinsfeld [3:44]
4. Ich tritt zum großen Waffenspiele [6:18]
5. Vater, Mutter, Schwestern, Brüder [3:38] Peter CORNELIUS (1824 – 1874)
Der Barbier von Bagdad:
6. Mein Sohn, sei Allahs Friede hier auf Erden [15:25] Giuseppe VERDI (1813 – 1901)
7. Der Welt entsag ich … Nie wird ich den Tag vergessen … Gott, du hast in unsere Seelen [11:33]
8. La donna è mobile [2:02] Bedrich SMETANA (1824 – 1884)
Die verkaufte Braut:
9. Komm, mein Söhnchen, auf ein Wort [7:21] Wilhelm KIENZL (1857 – 1941)
10. Lug, Dursel, lug … Zu Straßburg auf der Schanz [9:54] Giacomo PUCCINI (1858 – 1924)
11. Und es blitzen die Sterne [2:44]
Friederike Sailer (soprano)(4), Kurt Böhme (bass)(6, 9), Raymond Wolansky (baritone)(7), August Messthaler (bass)(7), Karl Röbbert (tenor)(10), Bruno Samland (baritone)(10), Hans Lindner (tenor)(10), Alfred Appenzeller (bass)(10); Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR/Alfons Rischner (1-3, 5, 9, 10); Rundfunkorchester des Südwestfunks Kaiserslautern/Emmerich Smola (4, 8, 11); Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR/Hans Müller-Kray (7, 10)