Günter Missenhardt, Hilde Gueden, Claudia Hellmann, Fritz Wunderlich, Friedrich Lenz, Hans Bruno Ernst, Karl Christian Kohn, Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Bavarian Radio Chorus, Bruno Bartoletti
Fritz Wunderlich, Singgemeinschaft Rudolf Lamy, Kurt Graunke Symphony Orchestra, Hans Carste
As Real a Presence Today as in His Own Lifetime
New releases to mark Fritz Wunderlich's 75th birthday Lovers of classical music hardly need reminding that the label "bestseller" is no guarantee of artistic quality. But when a live recording of a song recital from 1966 can maintain its place in the classical charts' Top Ten for a whole six months in spite of its less than perfect sound quality, we are certainly entitled to speak of a minor sensation.
Not even the tenor's most ardent admirers would have thought that Fritz Wunderlich's final lieder recital ("The Last Recital", DG CD 9806790) would be in the bestseller lists for more than twenty-eight weeks. At best it can have been only insiders and fans who knew that the legendary singer had achieved new heights of expression at the recital that he gave on 4September 1966, only thirteen days before his death from a tragic accident. So how can we explain the fact that almost forty years later Fritz Wunderlich is as real a presence now as he was in his own lifetime - not only on record shelves but in the awareness of a broad range of listeners?
Jens Malte Fischer has described the Wunderlich phenomenon on the radio in arguably more detail than any other commentator. For him, the singer's appeal boils down to the fact that his recordings "still speak to us today as directly as if they had been recorded yesterday. They have an immediacy, an aura and a sense of life and freshness that are unique. How else can we explain the fact that even young people who have no direct memory of the singer are attracted to him and to his voice as though he were still alive and singing today?"
Listeners can discover this for themselves by means of three new recordings that Deutsche Grammophon is issuing to mark what would have been the singer's 75th birthday on 26 September 2005:
Original Masters: The Art of Fritz Wunderlich (7 CDs)
This is the most comprehensive compilation of Fritz Wunderlich's recordings to have been issued so far. It covers the whole range of this phenomenally versatile singer's repertory, from Handel to Puccini, from Die Zauberflöte to Gräfin Mariza, from Bach's St Matthew Passion to Schumann's Dichterliebe and from An die Musik to Granada. At the same time, these seven CDs also document Fritz Wunderlich's artistic and vocal development during the eleven years of his professional career: from his first recording for Deutsche Grammophon (Monteverdi's L'Orfeo in 1955) and radio rarities of 1956 to his 1966 recording of Viennese songs under Robert Stolz and his final recording of operatic excerpts from Eugene Onegin and Zar und Zimmermann.
The Magic of Wunderlich (2 CDs + DVD)
A mixture of Wunderlich highlights and rarities, this release is an ideal way of getting to know the singer, but it will also be of interest to collectors: alongside his recording of Strauss songs under Jan Koetsier, they will also find previously unreleased treasures from the archives of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich - Wunderlich in Don Ottavio's scenes from a 1963 Don Giovanni and the Italian Singer's aria from Der Rosenkavalier recorded in 1966. The bonus DVD, too, contains much of interest to Wunderlich's fans in the form of highlights from television broadcasts of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia recorded in Munich in 1959 and Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin recorded in Munich three years later.
A television rarity: Rossini's Barbiere from the Cuvilliéstheater (DVD)
The 1959 Munich Barbiere with Fritz Wunderlich, Hermann Prey, Erika Köth and Hans Hotter is a recording of incalculable value for music lovers and eyewitnesses alike, a pioneering feat from the infancy of live broadcasting and at the same time a plea for the standards of good old ensemble opera. But even lovers of classical music who have no personal memories of this production will enjoy it: in spite of its "historical" look, the distinguished ensemble under the direction of Joseph Keilberth offers a feast of comic acting and spontaneity that is a sheer delight.