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Fritz Wunderlich (tenor)
Classical Arias

rec. 1956-59
SWRMUSIC SWR19048CD [66:24 + 58:12]

The German radio archives seem almost inexhaustible when it comes to recordings with Fritz Wunderlich. He was much loved during his short career and much lamented when he died in an accident a few days before his 36th birthday. Tamino in Die Zauberflöte became his signature role. It was his first role when he, still a student, made his stage debut on 21 July 1954, and it was his last role when he last appeared on the opera stage at a guest performance in Edinburgh on 5 September 1966. So it is fitting that this compilation of recordings from the SWR, the broadcasting institution in South-West Germany, opens with the aria Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön from that opera. The recording was made in Stuttgart on 17 April 1959 by a 28-year-old singer, and he was even then a fully-fledged lyrical tenor with all the characteristics we expect: the beautiful youthful tone, the perfect legato, the exemplary enunciation, the natural phrasing. Five years later he recorded the opera complete for Deutsche Grammophon under Karl Böhm and this recording has for many opera lovers, including myself, become the touchstone version. I bought it in December 1965 when it was brand new and, having practically worn the LPs out I later invested in the CD issue, which always is within arm-length’s distance from the CD-player.

Much of the rest of the contents on CD 1 is fairly rare repertoire. The short concert aria Con ossequio, con rispetto, composed in May 1775 and carrying Köchel number 210 (not 120 as the track-list says) is fresh and lively, while the big Misero! O sogno … Aura, che intorno from 1783 is one of his greatest works in this genre. I have for many years treasured Leopold Simoneau’s recording from the late 1950s, but Wunderlich’s reading is fully comparable, his legato is marvellous and he has both stamina and power for the dramatic final pages. Welch ein Glück from Die Gärtnerin aus Liebe and four excerpts from the unfinished Zaide were recorded as early as 1956, and he was already a singer to reckon with. In two of the Zaide numbers he is partnered by the lovely Maria Stader and in the concluding trio baritone Horst Günter also joins in.

Schubert had an unrequited love to opera. None of his essays were played during his lifetime – neither long after that. But in 1959 a Swiss broadcasting company decided to produce Fierrabras as a radio opera with Fritz Wunderlich in one of the roles and two numbers from that occasion is included here. In the duet Der Abend sinkt, which is a first release, the soprano Sieglinde Kahmann is also featured. Then follows some recitatives, an aria, three duets and a quartet from Die Wunderinsel. This is not an opera by Schubert but it contains music by Schubert, culled from Alfonso und Estrella and other works, put together by Kurt Honolka and given a German text from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It may not be the most fascinating thing I’ve come across but there are some nice tunes – the duet Mein Prinz, mein Prinz I remember from a comic cabaret in Sweden in the late 1960s – and the singing is good, from Wunderlich but also soprano Friederike Sailer, with whom he appeared rather frequently in Stuttgart.

CD 2 opens with the Prisoners’ Chorus from Beethoven’s Fidelio, where Wunderlich in 1957 was one of the two prisoners who had a solo. Well sung of course, and Hans Günter Nöcker’s mighty bass is also heard to good effect. The rest of the disc contains fifteen excerpts from Haydn’s Die Jahreszeiten – all the recitatives, arias and ensembles where Wunderlich takes part. I can’t find that this is a very good way of enjoying this masterly music, but it is well sung – the other soloists are soprano Agnes Giebel, whose silvery voice is an asset, and bass Kieth Engen in rather monumental form. Wunderlich sings with great feeling and glowing lyrical tone and in the very last excerpt, the aria Hier steht der Wand’rer nun, he also indulges in some skilfully executed coloratura. The complete recording is also available but for those who are satisfied with the bits and pieces featuring Fritz Wunderlich this will do very well.

The original tapes have been carefully remastered by Gabriele Starke and Boris Kellenbenz and the end product is utterly attractive. There are informative liner notes by Lothar Brandt and several of the tracks have never before been issued. Collectors of Wunderlich will certainly want this set but for the general collector a couple of previously released discs are probably safer bets. From the same source, SWR, Romantic Arias (review) is highly recommended and from BR Klassik a disc with recordings from Munich (review), including both German opera, operetta and some popular songs is a nice complement.

Göran Forsling

Contents & Performance Details
CD 1 [66:24]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756 – 1791)
Die Zauberflöte:
1. Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön [4:13]
Two Concert Arias:
2. Con ossequio, con rispetto, KV 210 [2:47]
3. Misero! O sogno ... Aura, che intorno, KV 431 (425b) [10:38]
Die Gärtnerin aus Liebe:
4. Welch ein Glück [4:20]
Zaide:
5. Ja, nun lass das Schicksal wüten [3:33]
6. Kannst Geliebter … [2:06]
7. Wackrer Freund, voll tiefer Scham [3:40]
8. O selige Wonne [5:23]
Franz SCHUBERT (1797 – 1828)
Fierrabras:
9. Der Abend sinkt [3:58]
10. Beschlossen ist’s, ich löse seine Ketten [5:54]
Die Wunderinsel:
11. Wo ist wohl die Musik [0:35]
12. Aus tiefem Schlaf erwachen [2:52]
13. Ihr wohnt auf dieser Insel [1:10]
14. Du schönes holdes Wesen [2:04]
15. So knecht’scher Dienst war nie [6:54]
16. Mein Prinz, mein Prinz [2:25]
17. Mein Vater, ich hab‘ die See umsonst verflucht [3:03]
Fritz Wunderlich (tenor), Maria Stader (soprano) (6, 8), Horst Günter (baritone) (8), Sieglinde Kahmann (soprano) (10), Friederike Sailer (soprano) (12, 15-17), Herbert Brauer (baritone) (11-13, 17), Barry McDaniel (baritone) (17); Sinfonieorchester des Süddeutschen Rundfunks/Carl Schuricht (1) Hans Müller-Kray (2, 3, 5-8) Josef Dünnwald; Württembergisches Staatsorchester Stuttgart/Josef Dünnwald (4); Berner Stadtorchester/Hans Müller-Kray
Rec at Stuttgart Villa Berg 17 April 1959 (tr. 1); Kaiserslauten Studio 27 September 1963 (tr. 2-3); Ludwigsburg Barocktheater 1 July 1956 (tr. 4); Stuttgart Liederhalle 24 October 1956 (tr. 5-8); Studio der Schweizerischen Rundspruchgesellschaft, Bern 7-10 April 1959 (tr. 9-10); Stuttgart Villa Berg 25 November 1958 (tr. 11-17)

CD 2 [58:12]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770 – 1827)
Fidelio:
1. O welche Lust (The prisoners‘ chorus) [6:32]
Joseph HAYDN (1732 – 1809)
Die Jahreszeiten:
2. Seht, wie der strenge Winter flieht [6:04]
3. Der Landmann hat sein Werk vollbracht [0:41]
4. Sei uns gnädig, milder Himmel [5:52]
5. In grauem Schleier rückt heran [3:41]
6. Sie steigt herauf, die Sonne [4:31]
7. Die Mittagssonne brennet jetzt [1:05]
8. Dem Druck erlieget die Natur [3:32]
9. O seht! Es steiget in der schwülen Luft [2:19]
10. Die düst’ren Wolken trennen sich [4:26]
11. Den reichen Vorrat fährt er nun [2:33]
12. Ihr Schönen aus der Stadt [7:58]
13. Hier treibt ein dicker Kreis [0:48]
14. Am Rebenstocke blinket jetzt [1:14]
15. Gefesselt steht der breite See [1:58]
16. Hier steht der Wand’rer nun [4:24]
Fritz Wunderlich (tenor), Hans Günter Nöcker (bass) (1), Agnes Giebel (soprano) (2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 12, 14), Kieth Engen (bass) (2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 14), Männerstimmen des Südfunk-Chors Stuttgart, Sinfonieorchester des Süddeutschen Rundfunks/Alfons Rischner (1); Südfunk-Chor & Südfunk-Sinfonieorchester/Hans Müller-Kray (2-16)
Rec. at Stuttgart Villa Berg 27 November 1957 (tr. 1); Schwetzingen Schloss, Rokokotheater 24 May 1959

 

 




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