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Every day we post 10 new Classical CD and DVD reviews. A free weekly summary is available by e-mail. MusicWeb is not a subscription site. To keep it free please purchase discs through our links.

  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    


The Very Best of Fritz WUNDERLICH (tenor): 1930-1966
CD 1.
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)

Cosi fan tutte, ‘Un aura amorosa’.
Don Giovanni, ‘Il mio tesoro’. ‘Dalla sua pace’.
Die Entfuhrung, ‘Konsstanze, dich wiederzusehen’.
Die Zauberflote, ‘Dies Bildnis’
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Serse, ‘Ombra mai fu’.
Friedrich Von FLOTOW (1812-1883)

Martha, ‘Ach, so fromm’.
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Der fiiegende Hollander, ‘Mit Gewitter und Sturm’.
Peter CORNELIUS (1824-1874)

Der Barbier von Bagdad, ‘So leb’ ich noch’.
Albert LORTZING (1801-1851)

Zar und Zimmermann’, ‘lebe wohl, mein flandrisch Madchen’.
Wilhelm KIENZL (1857-1941)

Der Evangelimann, ‘Selig sind’.
Otto NICOLAI (1810-1849)

Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, ‘Horch, die Lerche singt im Hain’, ‘Fenton Mein Madchen’.
Bedrich SMETANA (1824-1884)

Die verkaufte Braut, (The Bartered Bride) ‘Amer Narr’, ‘So find ich dich’.
Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)

Eugene Onegin, ‘Lensky’s Aria’.
CD 2
Ambroise THOMAS (1811-1896)

Mignon, ‘Adieu Mignon’.
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)

Manon, ‘Instant charmant..En ferment les yeux’
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1868)

L’Elisir d’amore, ‘Una furtive lagrima ‘Quanto e bella’
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)

Ein Nacht in Venedig, ‘Komm in die Gondel’ ‘Ach, wie so herrlich zu schau’n’.
Carl MILLÖCKER (1842-1899)

Der Bettelstudent, ‘Durch diessen Kuss sei unser Bind geweit’.
Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)

Giuditta, ‘Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert’.
Das Land des Lachelns, ‘Dein ist mein ganzes Herz’, ‘Von Afelbluten einen Kranz’.
Der Zarawitsch, ‘Wolgalied’.
Emmerich KÁLMÁN (1882-1953)

Die Zirkusprinzessin, ‘Zwei Marchenaugen’
Grafin Maritza, ‘Grus mir mein Wien’, ‘Komm, Zigany’.
Leo FALL (1873-1925)

Die fidele Baeur, ‘O frag mich nicht’, ‘
Die Rose von Stambul, ‘O Rose’, ‘Zwei Augen’.
Adolf NUENDORF (1843-1897)

‘Der Rattenfanger’.
Various orchestras and conductors. Recorded between 1960 and 1964.
Bargain Price.
EMI CLASSICS 7243 5 75915-2 [2CDs: 77.37+76.17]

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Wunderlich made his stage debut as Tamino, in a student production in 1954, and by a cyclical coincidence it was his last role, sung with the Stuttgart Opera at the Edinburgh Festival in August 1966. After those appearances he returned to his native Germany to holiday at the hunting lodge of a colleague, the bass Gottlob Frick. Whilst going to answer a ’phone call he slipped, fell downstairs and was taken to hospital unconscious; he never recovered. Thus ended the career of certainly the greatest German lyric tenor of the post-Second World War years; he was two weeks short of his 36th birthday. At this stage of his career he was about to expand more extensively into the Italian lyric roles and was preparing the role of Rodolfo at the time of his death. Whilst Caruso and Björling died prematurely at 49, we at least have records of them in their full vocal maturity. We will never know where Wunderlich’s vocal development would have taken him particularly in the German repertoire; certainly a Walther, and perhaps a Lohengrin or Parsifal, as successor Siegfried Jerusalem, a distinguished Tamino in Haitink’s recording, has done.

We are fortunate that Wunderlich left an generous recorded legacy. He recorded extensively for Electrola, the autonomous German branch of EMI, DG and various radio stations that have also been a source of issued CDs (see my review of the singer on the Hänssler Classic label elsewhere on this site). As was the habit in the 1950s and 1960s most of his operatic offerings on record are in the singer’s native German rather than the language of the work’s composition. Of the non-Germanic works on this double disc issue only Handel’s ‘Largo’ is sung as set (CD1 tr.6). I recognize that for many purists this will constitute a significant drawback. Nonetheless, I strongly recommend persistence because the virtues, particularly the beauty of tone, the elegance of phrasing and vocal characterising of the singer outweigh that disadvantage, and this pair of discs deserves a place in the collection of any lover of fine singing. The matter of language is put in perspective in the first two items, Don Ottavio’s ‘Il mio tesoro’ and ‘Dalla sua pace’ (using the Italian original as shown on the back of the jewel case) from Don Giovanni. The smooth legato and the beauty of the timbre trick the ear into hearing Italian! Not possible in reality of course, but it is the clue to the artistry of this fine singer that one can suspend belief of what is filling ones aural perception. Much the same can be said about the French and Italian items that start the second CD. In the former, Wunderlich adopts a slight nasality to the tone and a honeyed ‘mezza voce’ that make the last phrase ‘Manon’ (tr.2) heart-rending in its sensitivity. Similar artistry is to be heard in the diminuendo with which he concludes ‘Quanto e bella’ (tr.4).

The recordings on these discs were made between 1960 and 1964 when Wunderlich was firmly established. His early reputation in Mozart is well illustrated by his Ferrando, Belmonte and Tamino’s ‘Die Bildnis’ (CD 1 tr.3-5) as well as in the Don Giovanni arias referred to. His voice has an even production across its range, an edge of steel to the silvery tone enables the singer to give bite and characterization to his singing. Electrola readily recognized this skill and the extracts here of his Fenton, from Nicolai’s Shakespearian opera, sublimely conducted by Heger (CD1 tr.12-13)’, and as Jenick in Smetana’s ‘Bartered Bride’ (CD1 tr.14-15, and shown only by the German name) exemplify this. Wunderlich was not a good actor on stage but as these examples, and the earlier ones from the French and Italian repertoire, show he could convey both the character and the meaning of the words, to near perfection, by vocal means alone; a skill not given to many operatic singers. Elsewhere on these discs there are extracts from operetta, of which he was fond of recording but not singing on stage! Sample his Lehár (CD 2 tr.9-12), particularly tr.12 ‘Wolgalied’; you will immediately think of Tauber, there can be no higher compliment in this repertoire. Significantly, from the vocal point of view, he removes the steel from his voice and the wholly appropriate honeyed tone prevails; true artistry indeed.

Wunderlich was not a great lieder singer, but he did contribute superb renditions of the tenor songs on Klemperer’s EMI ‘Das Lied von der Erde’ and perhaps space for a memory of that should have been found here. There are differences of acoustic between some of the 1960 recordings, where the voice is forward and the acoustic on the dry side, to other later recordings where there is more resonance and the voice set further back. The difference is notable but did not detract from my enjoyment. The sleeve note, in English, German and French is sparse and is thankfully printed in white on purple/indigo, better than the orange of the composer’s names! CD1 tr.8 is by Wagner, its attribution is missing; sloppy!


Robert J Farr



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