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CD: AmazonUK AmazonUS

Fritz Wunderlich - Live on Stage
see end of review for details
rec. 1962-6
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 477 9109 [74.20]

Experience Classicsonline

The son of a Kapellmeister, Fritz Wunderlich made his stage debut as Tamino in a student production in 1954. By a cyclical coincidence it was also 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 Gottlib Frick. Whilst going to answer a phone call he slipped and fell down stairs and was taken to hospital unconscious; he never recovered. Thus ended the career of certainly the greatest German lyric tenor of the immediate 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 milieu and was preparing the role of Rodolfo in La Boheme 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 of Die Zauberflöte, did.
We are fortunate that Wunderlich left a diverse legacy of studio recordings. He worked extensively for Electrola, the autonomous German branch of EMI as well as DG, whilst various radio stations have also been a source of issued CDs. 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 works’ composition and many of the excerpts on the EMI issue The Best of Fritz Wunderlich (see review) are sung in that language with only Handel’s Largo being sung as set.
The live recordings present in this issue derive from the last four years of Wunderlich’s life. His intended direction was surely recognition of the growth of his voice the consequences of which can be heard as early as 1964 in his singing of the role of Tamino, a signature role (trs.1-5). In the opening mirror aria, Die Bildnis (tr.1) there is some sign of strain as he reaches for, rather than floats up to, the climax, swelling on the note for expression. By contrast, in the reprise in Dalla sua pace from Don Giovanni recorded a year earlier he sings on the breath with gently elegiac phrasing (tr.6); in this he is helped by Karajan’s conducting. The extra edge to the voice as required for the La Boheme Rodolfo is present in the extracts from Il barbiere di Siviglia sung in German (trs.8-9). In contrast, the extracts from Die Entführung aus dem Serail recorded a year earlier evidence those long-breathed expressive tones with the voice bright and forward - his hallmark (trs.14-15). 
Perhaps the highlights of this collection are the Strauss items from works not otherwise available with him. Of these his strong toned singing of Du süssester Engel from Die schweigsame Frau is particularly notable despite some overload (tr.13). This extract, like that of Di rigori armato il seno from Der Rosenkavalier here enjoys its first appearance on CD (tr. 12) and together with Hilde Gueden’s contribution makes the extract from Daphne particular highlights (tr.11).
In other extracts the supporting singers vary from the superb Lucia Popp and Hilde Gueden in Addio, mia vita from Capriccio (tr. 10) to a rather gruff Sarastro and somewhat mature Rothenberger in the extracts from Die Zauberflöte (trs 1-5).
Live performances demand more from a singer than those made in the studio, particularly how their voices strike an accommodation with the auditorium size. We can hear what Wunderlich really sounded like in various theatres and it becomes even more evident what a loss his premature death meant to the operatic world.
Robert J Farr

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Die Zauberflöte K.620
Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön [4:37]
Holde Flöte [3:33]
Soll ich dich, Teurer, nicht mehr sehn?" [2:47]
Mich schreckt kein Tod [2:02]
Tamino mein! [8:11]
with Anneliese Rothenberger, Claude Heater, Albrecht Peter, Chorus of the Bavarian State Opera, Munich Philharmonic/Fritz Rieger
rec. Munich Nationaltheater, 26 July 1964
Don Giovanni, K.527
Come mai creder deggio … Dalla sua pace [4:40]
Amici miei ... Il mio tesoro [5:14]
Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera/Herbert von Karajan
rec. 22 June 1963
Die Entführung aus dem Serail K384
Hier soll ich dich denn sehen [2:52]
Konstanze, dich wiederzusehen - O wie ängstlich, o wie feurig [5:30]
Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera/Josef Krips
rec. 4 October 1965
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792 - 1868)
Il barbiere di Siviglia (German version)
Sieh schon die Morgenröte [4:12]
Strahlt auf mich der Blitz des Goldes (Duet with Eberhard Wächter) [7:33]
Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera/Karl Böhm
rec. 28 April 1966
Richard STRAUSS (1864-1949)
Capriccio Op.85
Addio, mia vita [3:58]
Fritz Wunderlich, Lucia Popp, Lisa della Casa, Robert Kerns, Waldemar Kmentt, Walter Berry, Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera/Georges Prêtre
rec. 21 March 1964
Daphne - bucolic tragedy in one Act
Leukippos, du? -(with fade-out ) [6:11]
with Hilde Gueden, Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera/Karl Böhm
rec. 21-26 May 1964
Der Rosenkavalier Op.59
Di rigori armato il seno [4:58]
with Kurt Böhme, Josef Knapp
Bavarian State Opera/Rudolf Kempe
rec. 20 July 1966
Die schweigsame Frau Op.80
Du süssester Engel [8:02]
Ingeborg Hallstein, Kurt Böhme
Orchestra of the Munich State Opera/Heinz Wallberg
rec. 12 August 1962



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