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Great Singers Live: Fritz Wunderlich
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks
Münchner Rundfunkorchester
rec. 1959-1965
BR KLASSIK 900314 [57:45]

17 September 2016 marked the passage of fifty years since Fritz Wunderlich died in an accident; he was only 35. The world lost one of the finest lyric tenors of all time and we still await a natural heir. He was an ideal Mozart singer-his Belmonte and Tamino for Deutsche Grammophon are legendary. An excellent Lieder singer too his elegance and beauty of tone made him extremely suitable for the operetta repertoire. It is this repertoire-and a couple of light operas-that constitutes the programme of the present disc. The material-never before issued commercially-comes from the archives of the Munich Radio Orchestra and was recorded between 1959 and 1966 when he was at the height of his powers. He didn’t live long enough to show any signs of vocal decline but by the time of his death he was contemplating a change of direction towards heavier roles: he had already rehearsed the title role in Pfitzner’s Palestrina and there was talk of his taking on Lohengrin. It’s no use speculating what could have become of him in, say, five years’ time, but we can be grateful that we can now listen to his well-focused, unforced and ardent singing in these songs and arias.

The recordings are excellent and the repertoire is by and large unhackneyed. It is good, for instance, to hear something by Millöcker, other than Der Bettelstudent. Gräfin Dubarry pre-dated Der Bettelstudent by three years and these two songs are so attractive that one would like to hear the complete operetta one day. Lortzing’s operas are still frequently played in Germany, as a quick search on Operabase confirms, but in the rest of the world one searches in vain. Hearing Wunderlich’s readings of the three arias presented here is ample proof that the loss is ours. Otto Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor is actually more internationally spread and can be seen in Hungary, Belgium, Lithuania, Austria and other countries. Fenton’s romance is possibly the best known number and it is an ideal vehicle for Wunderlich’s lyrical singing. The recording is from 1962, at about the time when he recorded the opera complete for Electrola. That recording, conducted by veteran Robert Heger and with the great Gottlob Frick as Falstaff, is utterly recommendable.

The title song from Lehár’s Schön ist die Welt is a gem, sweet but not sentimental. He slides up to the last note but that is a small price to pay for so much excellent singing. The Duke’s two arias from Eine Nacht in Venedig are well-known and with the exception of Nicolai Gedda nobody has sung them more meltingly.

Madame Pompadour (1923) seems to be Leo Fall’s most popular operetta today but Die Rose von Stambul (1916) also survives and these two songs are gems. In the first of them there is some whistling, beautifully executed. Eduard Künneke, on the other hand, is out of fashion; not even Der Vetter aus Dingsda with the popular song Ich bin nur ein armer Wandergesell. The two songs here are valuable additions to the catalogue. Robert Stolz and Mischa Spoliansky are also welcome and as a kind of encore we get a song by Willy Mattes, best remembered as conductor of numerous complete operetta recordings. The composer conducts and Wunderlich sings with great conviction.

Fritz Wunderlich’s many admirers need no advocacy from me to acquire this delightful disc, but actually no one with the slightest interest in good tenor singing can afford to be without it.

Göran Forsling
Previous review: Michael Cookson

Track Listing
Carl MILLÖCKER (1842-1899)
Gräfin Dubarry:
1. Wie schön ist alles (Lied des René) [3:56]
2. Mein Weg führt immer mich zu dir zurück (Lied des René) [3:27]
Albert LORTZING (1801-1851)
Zar und Zimmermann:
3. Leb‘ wohl, mein flandrisch Mädchen (Lied des Marquis Chateauneuf) [4:59]
4. Vater, Mutter, Schwestern, Brüder (Lied des Veit) [3:11]
Der Waffenschmied:
5. Man wird ja einmal nur geboren (Arie des Georg) [3:35]
Otto NICOLAI (1810-1849)
Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor:
6. Horch, die Lerche singt im Hain (Arie des Fenton) [5:05]
Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)
Schön ist die Welt:
7. Schön ist die Welt (Lied des Georg) [3:58]
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Eine Nacht in Venedig:
8. Treu sein, das liegt mir nicht (Lied des Herzogs) [2:05]
9. Sei mir gegrüsst, du holdes Venezia (Lied des Herzogs) [2:47]
Leo FALL (1873-1925)
Die Rose von Stambul:
10. Zwei Augen, die wollen mir nicht aus dem Sinn (Lied des Achmed) [4:04]
11. Oh Rose von Stambul (Lied des Achmed) [4:02]
Eduard KÜNNEKE (1885-1953)
Die lockende Flamme:
12. Ich träume mit offenen Augen (Lied des Jacinto) [2:42]
Die grosse Sünderin:
13. Das Lied vom Leben des Schrenk (Lied des Schrenk) [4:29]
Robert STOLZ (1880-1975)
Ich liebe alle Frauen:
14. Ob blond, ob braun, ich liebe alle Frau’n [2:30]
Mischa SPOLIANSKY (1898-1985)
15. Heute Nacht oder nie [3:08]
Willy MATTES (1916-2002)
16. Melodia con passione [3:47]

Performance Details
Conductors: Hans Moltkau (1, 2, 5-13); Kurt Eichhorn (3); Meinhard von Zallinger (4); Siegfried Köhler (14-15); Willy Mattes (16)
rec. 14 June 1962 (1-2); 11 April 1965 (3); 14 December 1959 (4); 8 March 1962 (5); 7 May 1962 (6); 13-15 June 1962 (7-13); 13 February 1966 (14-15); 5 May 1962 (16)



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