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Fritz Wunderlich (tenor)
Music Before Bach
rec. 1954-1957
SWR MUSIC SWR19051CD [69:22 + 65:51]

In the aftermath of the 50th anniversary of the death of Fritz Wunderlich, there has been a steady stream of issues of recording from German radio archives, spanning music from the renaissance to schlagers from the 1950s. A lot of this material was recorded very early in the great tenor’s career and offers a valuable complement to his commercial recordings from primarily the 1960s. The present issue covers music from before the time of Bach, and most of it is rarely heard and rarely recorded. Some of the recordings are among the earliest preserved of his voice, predating his first gramophone recording (Monteverdi’s La favola d’Orfeo with Wenzinger made in July 1955) with almost a year.

The six Senfl songs (CD 1 tr. 1 – 6) are from October 1954, when he had just turned 24, and his timbre is easily identifiable. Accompanied by four strings his unforced singing is a pleasure to listen to. Stylistically he is also well attuned to this early 16th century songs, although the modern string sound hardly is authentic. But in its own right the sound is beautiful – just listen to the 2-minute-long prelude to the first song. A pupil of Heinrich Isaac, Swiss born Ludwig Senfl was one of the most important composers of both sacred and secular music. He wrote a great number of German songs, and the six sung here by Fritz Wunderlich vividly tells us why his music continued to be performed at least throughout the 17th century. It is melodious and several of the songs here can easily stand repeated listening. In Entlaubet ist der Walde (CD 1 tr. 2) there is even a couple of phrases that Mozart could have snapped up and recycled in Die Zauberflöte.
The well-known Liederbuch des Arnt von Aich, comprising “75 pleasant songs for descant, alto, bass and tenor to sing cheerfully” was printed between 1512 and 1520 and the composers are even older than Senfl, from the generation of Isaac and we can note that Erasmus Lapicida probably reached an age of close to 100 years! There is nothing wrong with the singing or the playing of the Spielkreis für historische Instrumente des Staatlichen Hochschulinstituts für Musik Mainz, but there is a certain monotony about the songs, which would probably be better appreciated if listened to one or two at a time. Wunderlich, here more than two years older than in the Senfl songs, is just as mellifluous as before.

With Alessandro Grandi’s beautiful motet we move over to the 17th century and the early baroque. Grandi was Italian and is regarded as one of the most influential composers in northern Italy, second only to Monteverdi. And Plorabo die ac nocte is certainly inventive and catchy. The singing and playing is excellent and Wunderlich is here joined by the bass Hermann Werdermann and a very good but uncredited soprano who actually dominates the trio of singers. Roughly contemporaneous with Grandi was the German master Heinrich Schütz, who is regarded as the greatest German composer before Bach. He published three volumes of Symphoniae sacrae, the second of them in 1647. The two concertos for two tenors, two violins and basso continuo recorded here are very attractive, the first lively and dramatic, the second slower, more meditative but with some livelier moments. Interestingly the harpsichord is played by Hermann Werdermann, who sang the bass part in the Grandi piece. Even more interesting is that in the Graupner cantata on CD 2 he obviously both sings and plays at the same time!

Johann Rosenmüller, who also was an important composer in the 17th century, may not be so well-known among non-baroque freaks, but he is well represented in the CD catalogues and occupies 8 pages on Presto Classical, which means circa 80 discs. The three lamentations recorded here are agreeable but maybe too recessed in feelings. The solo part is mainly shaped as recitatives, but they are performed stylishly and with great authority. In 1957 Wunderlich was already an important singer.

Christoph Graupner was born in 1683 and thus two years Bach’s senior, but he survived him by ten years. Though a prolific composer – about 2,000 works have been preserved – he naturally has been overshadowed by Telemann, Bach and Handel, but judging from the cantata he was no doubt in their class. The dominating soloist here is the soprano Margot Guillaume, best known for her participation in August Wenzinger’s legendary recording of Monteverdi’s La favola d’Orfeo, where also Fritz Wunderlich took part in a couple of minor roles. Buxtehude, born in Helsingborg, which in his time was Danish, was the great organ master in the generation before Bach. It is well-known that Bach walked 460 kilometres from Arnstadt to Lübeck in 1705 to hear him play. But his vocal music is also utterly valuable. I have long admired a couple of recordings with his music by the great Danish tenor Aksel Schiøtz. These three cantatas are well up to that level and in particular Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, known also in Bach’s setting in his cantata No. 140, is masterly with all three soloists given generous exposure; not least the bass stands out as a personality.

Johann Philipp Krieger, another baroque master who has dropped out of fashion, rounds of this programme with a sacred concerto for two tenors. Wunderlich and Michaelis match each other very well, and the composition is worth returning to.

The original tapes have been lovingly restored and the old mono recordings are admirably clear and enjoyable, which makes this a wholly recommendable set to add to the many previous discs with historical material from Fritz Wunderlich which has been unearthed to his memory.

Göran Forsling

CD 1 [69:22]
Ludwig SENFL (1486 – 1543)
1. Lust hab ich g’habt zur Musica [4:44]
2. Entlaubet ist der Walde [4:06]
3. Ich armes Käuzlein kleine [1:13]
4. Unsäglich Schmerz [4:51]
5. Ein alt bös Weib [1:26]
6. Wie wohl ich trag [5:09]

From Liederbuch des Arnt von Aich (1510):
7. Ein Blümlein fein hab ich erwählt [2:24]
Paul HOFHAIMER (1459 – 1537)
8. Was ich durch Glück hab Gunst erlangt [3:32]
Heinrich ISAAC (1450 – 1517)
9. Ach weiblich Art [3:54]
10. Ich schell mein Horn im Jammerton [3:09]
Erasmus LAPICIDA (c. 1450 – 1547)
11. Es lebt mein Hertz in Freud und Scherz [5:09]
Adam RENER (1482 – 1520)
12. Mein höchste Frucht [2:43]
Adam von FULDA (c. 1445 – 1505)
13. Apollo aller Kunst ein Hort [5:37]
Alessandro GRANDI (c. 1575/80 – 1630)
14. Plorabo die ac nocte [6:17]
Heinrich SCHÜTZ (1585 – 1672)
From Sinfoniae Sacrae, Op. 10 part 2:
15. Es steh’ Gott auf, dass seine Feind’ zerstreuet warden [7:17]
16. Was betrübst Du Dich, meine Seele [6:47]

CD 2 [65:51]
Johann ROSENMÜLLER (1619 – 1684)
From Lamentationes Jeremiae Prophetae
1. Vau. Et egressus est a filia Sion omnis [6:23]
2. Aleph. Ego vir videns paupertatem [6:51]
3. Incipit oratio Jereniae Prophetae [6:21]
Christoph GRAUPNER (1683 – 1760)
4. Wie balt hast Du gelitten [7:18]
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637 – 1707)
5. O wie selig sind, die zu dem Abendmahl des Lammes berufen sind [9:21]
6. Surrexit Christus hodie [7:10]
7. Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme [12:42]
Johann Philipp KRIEGER (1649 – 1725)
8. Wo willst Du hin, weil’s Abend ist [9:11]
Margot Guilleaume (soprano)(CD 2 tr. 4 &6,)Hanne Münch (contralto) (CD 2 tr. 4 & 7), Erika Winkler (contralto) (CD 2 tr. 6), Bernhard Michaelis (tenor) (CD 1 tr. 15 & 16; CD 2 tr. 8), Hermann Werdermann (bass) (CD 1 tr. 14; CD 2 tr. 4, 5 & 7); various accompaniments
Rec. at SWE Landesstudio Grosser Saal, Freiburg, 27 October 1954 (CD 1 tr. 1 – 6); at Mainz Staaliches Hochschulinstitut für Musik, 25 January 1957 (CD 1 tr. 7 – 13); at Villa Berg Stuttgart, 14 March 1957 (CD 1 tr. 14; CD 2 tr. 5 & 6&), 9 May 1956 (CD 1 tr. 15, 16), 24 March 1957 (CD 2 tr. 1 – 3), 9 February 1956 (CD 2 tr. 4), 5 December 1956 (CD 2 tr. 7), 16 March 1956 (CD 2 tr. 8)

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