At the time that Fritz was performing in opera in the late 1950s and
1960s, it was standard practice in his country to sing (and record)
everything in German. On what little he did record in Italian, he
sounds a bit uncomfortable at times! (He also recorded Be My Love in
English, with rather unidiomatic results: "ze vay you hold my hahnd"
But the wonderful thing about Fritz's German is the way he so often
makes it sound quite beautiful.
And here's a moving extract from the late Hermann Prey's autobiography:
Prey makes the interesting comment that on one of their recordings
together, "there are points at which I cannot really tell who is
singing what. Our voices melted together to form one." That's exactly
how I feel when I play the Pearl Fishers duet with Prey and
Thank you Derek for that file of Wunderlich and Prey. The Pearl Fishers duet is one of my favourites and I have listened to it many times with several different singers,
I like this one even if it is in German and I am used to hearing it in French.
A lovely blend of two beautiful voices.
The pristine sound quality on all of Fritz's recordings certainly is a
delight; what's more - as David Savage has pointed out on the
Memorable Live Experiences thread - what we hear on record is exactly
what was heard in the theatre. Sadly, no one has ever been able to say
that about any of Lanza's recordings - none of which, it seems, truly
does him justice.
On 1/25/08, am...@ruc.dk <am...@ruc.dk> wrote:
> Thank you so much for the link to the Pearl Fishers Duet, Derek! It is
> very beautiful.
> On 25 Jan., 06:16, "Derek McGovern" <derek.mcgov...@gmail.com> wrote:
> > Hi Ann-Mai
> > I can give you a temporary link for the Pearl Fishers Duet (Au Fond du
> > Temple Saint) with Wunderlich and Prey, but (sorry) not for Be My
> > Love. Here it is:
> > http://www.4shared.com/file/35867969/53dec1e8/Au_Fond_du_Temple_Saint...
> > Wunderlich's discography is a bit confusing because he recorded for
> > both EMI and Deutsch Grammophon. The Pearl Fishers Duet, for example,
> > is DG - as is his Granada (the exciting version in a non-traditional
> > arrangement) - but Il Mio Tesoro (Folget der Heissgeliebten) and Komm,
> > O Holde Dame are with EMI. And Ombra Mai Fu is sung in Italian for one
> > label and German for another!
> > I've just learned today, though, that he sang Alfredo in La Traviata
> > in *Italian* on stage in Munich in 1965 with Teresa Stratas and
> > Hermann Prey. Perhaps our very own David Savage witnessed one of these
> > performances?
> > -Derek
> > On Jan 25, 2008 2:50 PM, <a...@ruc.dk> wrote:
> > > Hi!
> > > Derek, thank you for telling us about your new DVD of Fritz Wunderlich
> > > it sounds very interesting.
> > > Yes, the way he died was very tragic, tripping in his shoelaces and
> > > falling down the stairs - horrible, and so young.
> > > He sure did have a wonderful voice and a beautiful German diction. His
> > > Granada is absolutely thrilling - a real show-off (in a good way),
> > > right? I have a 3 cd box set of Wunderlich recitals named "Der grosse
> > > deutsche tenor Fritz Wunderlich" which I can recommend. It has arias
> > > and duets from operas and operettas. The pearl fisher duet is however
> > > not among them - unfortunately, I would have loved to hear it and his
> > > Be My Love too, lol. I had no idea he had sung anything in English.
> > > Well, back on track - all the arias on this CD are in German except
> > > for Ombra mai fu which is wonderful. It is actually quite fun to hear
> > > the great Italian arias and duets like Il Mio Tesoro, Questa o quella,
> > > La donna e mobile, O soave fanciulla not to mention the butterfly duet
> > > sung in German. At first it is a bit weird, but when you get used to
> > > it, it is quite good.
> > > I have uploaded the ones mentioned above to the following link, so you
> > > can all hear them.
> > >http://savefile.com/projects/808596147
> > > The Boheme duet is sung with Annelise Rothenberger and the butterfly
> > > duet with Pilar Lorengar.
> > > Ann-Mai- Skjul tekst i anførselstegn -
The 1959 Barber of Seville DVD is great! Beautifully sung and
hilariously acted by one and all.
No, Mario would never have gone near the role of Almaviva!
As for Di Stefano's comments, perhaps he simply wasn't a Bjoerling
fan? It'd be interesting to know. But I can understand why he would
have felt an affinity for Wunderlich's singing: in the phrasing
department, especially, Fritz was everything that his fellow lyric
tenor contemporary Pavarotti wasn't.
Basically, what I asked them both was:
1/ What did Fritz Wunderlich think of Lanza's voice and singing?
2/ Did Wunderlich ever attend one of Mario Lanza's recitals?
3/. It has been claimed that Wunderlich met Lanza in 1958 after one of
Lanza's recitals in Germany that year, and that a photograph of the
two men was taken. Can you verify such a meeting -- and, if so, does
indeed a photo of this auspicious encounter exist?
Given that I've drawn blanks so far -- not helped by the fact that I
don't speak a word of German -- if any of our German-speaking members
would like to undertake their own detective work on the questions
above, then, please, be my guest!
If you want another proof that Wunderlich was not a vocal miracle (and there are few vocal miracles) take track 8 where even all the help of the engineers is not enough to convince us that Wunderlich equals Mario Lanza (who, of course in those days, was a non-person and not mentioned in the sleeve notes). Wunderlich not only shirks the top C at the end of the song but he lacks the natural almost leisurely surety of a real miracle voice. His English is unidiomatic and he over enunciates the consonants in the well-known German way. One realizes this is a good voice which by sheer hard work has gone far and now has all the necessary qualities for a world career: incisiveness, legato, a good top though lacking those two qualities absolutely necessary in this repertoire: charm and warmth. Wunderlich was no Lanza and he was even less a Richard Tauber.
In Memoriam: Fritz Wunderlich.
This day, 17 September 2016, marks the 50th anniversary of death of the great German lyric tenor, Fritz Wunderlich (1930 - 1966). When Wunderlich died in Heidelberg he was only shy of his 36th birthday. He left his wife Eva and three little children, Constanze, Wolfgang and Barbara.
“The passing of an artist is always cause of regret. The senseless passing of an artist in his prime – perhaps even just before it – is cause for mourning of the profoundest sort.
Such is the case with Fritz Wunderlich. To American music lovers, Wunderlich was just a name and a sound. Operatic cognoscenti had heard reports of his extraordinary successes – mostly in Mozart – from Salzburg, Vienna, Munich, occasionally Holland and France. Record collectors knew him better, from superlative mementos of his Hans in ‘The Bartered Bride’ … Tamino in ‘Die Zauberflöte’ … and Leukippos in ‘Daphne’…, not to mention numerous Bach oratorios, collections of arias, and several complete operas in which, with characteristic conscientiousness, he undertook secondary assignments.
Had fate not intervened, Wunderlich would soon have become a familiar figure on our stages as well. He was to have made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera as Don Ottavio in ‘Don Giovanni’ Saturday. With his commanding stage presence, high degree of musicality, and exceptional vocal resources, his future looked bright.
But a month ago, Fritz Wunderlich stumbled and fell down a flight of stairs in Heilbronn, Germany. He died in a Heidelberg hospital Sept.17. Like his beloved Mozart, he was a few weeks shy of his 36th birthday. With him died one of the most beautiful and most promising voices before the public – and certainly the finest exponent of the lyric tenor repertory to emerge from Germany since Richard Tauber.” (Martin Bernheimer in The Los Angeles Times, 9 Oct.1966.”
“It is no secret that tenors, really fine tenors who can sing with musicianship, warmth, and perceptive understanding of the composer’s ‘raptus’ are very rare. Such a tenor was Fritz Wunderlich, the German lyric tenor … Wunderlich could sing ‘O Lola’ or ‘Nessun dorma’ or ‘Dies Bildnis’ (‘Zauberflöte’) or Toselli’s ‘Serenade’ or ‘Aennchen von Tharau’ or a popular tune like ‘Granada’ and he could sing them with a magical quality for which he had the patent.” (Henry S. Humphreys in The Cincinnati Enquirer, 8 October 1967).
In my post I would like to tell a little bit about Wunderlich’s time in my hometown Freiburg and since I am no Wunderlich expert I will mainly be quoting excerpts from the Fritz Wunderlich biography written by Werner Pfister but also from some other sources (All translations by Steff, please do not use them without my permission!).
Between 1950 and 1955 Fritz Wunderlich studied at the Academy of Music in my hometown Freiburg im Breisgau (Black Forest). He had taken singing lessons before, first in his hometown Kusel (Palatine), then in Kaiserslautern, but his years of study in Freiburg truly laid the foundation for his becoming a professional singer. Unfortunately his career - a career straightforward and ambitious, without any comedowns, would only span eleven years and ended tragically and untimely due to a fatal accident – Gone all too soon!
“God allows a human being to rise to him up to the verge of perfection. But he alone determines the time of accomplishment.” (Marianne Decker, née Wunderlich, Wunderlich’s elder sister).
Wunderlich studied singing under Margarethe von Winterfeldt (23 January 1902 - 7 October 1978) – masterclass - and French horn under Lothar Leonards. His minor study subject was the piano under Friedrich Finke.
Until 1983 the Academy of Music, founded in 1946, was located at the Münsterplatz/Cathedral Square in the “Wentzingerhaus,” a Baroque building which nowadays houses the “Museum für Stadtgeschichte” [museum for municipal history]. The building was one of the few in the historical area around the cathedral, the heart of Freiburg, that fortunately had not been laid to ashes by the horrible bombardment of the British Air Force on that fatal day of 27 November 1944.
“When you enter the old, beautiful Wentzingerhaus at the Domplatz (cathedral square) in Freiburg it is strange to hear from all corners the music of Strawinsky, Hindemith, Bartók and other recent composers. And it seems almost paradoxical that in this old building you can find the most modern music academy in Germany. There are no modern and suitable classrooms, no carpets, no cushioned and soundproof double doors and no representative shrines for the professors. Some rooms are only equipped with a piano, a plain wooden bench and maybe a music stand. The director’s ‘office’ is a tiny snug with an old desk and an armchair.” … Noted artists form the academic staff of the school. These are all personalities who, apart from their great technical qualities, know how to get in human contact with the pupils. The number of students is not allowed to exceed 240 pupils… The selection of students who are admitted takes place under extraordinarily strict standards. This avoids the inflow of only average talent to this profession which is still sought after by many young people and which offers to only a few a substantive existence for their future life.“ [From the magazine “Illustrierte Funkwelt” as quoted in Werner Pfister’s book, page 43].
Although his years in Freiburg were full of privation and financial shortcomings Fritz Wunderlich considered his years of studies in Freiburg as “the defining time of his life.”
“In Freiburg my brother got the opportunity to dedicate himself completely to what inspired him from his earliest childhood days: Music all over. Despite his homesickness that afflicted him he was ambitious up to the point of self- abandonment – and he was happy.” [As once remarked by Wunderlich’s elder sister, Marianne Decker, née Wunderlich].
In October 1950 the entrance examination took place at the Freiburg Music Academy:
“The audition took place in the main building of the State Academy at the Münsterplatz [Cathedral Square], on the first floor in the so called oval hall. All the Academy professors were sitting together. Wunderlich sang two Schubert songs … ‘And he did it with a wonderful, yet still crude voice,’ as Margarethe von Winterfeldt, who directed the singing master class and sat in the auditorium with her professor colleagues, would tell later. ‘He sang very emotionally and with all his heart. When he stopped singing, he remarked: ‘It sounded kind of schmaltzy, didn’t it? Well, that’s what I would like to learn here: How to do it in a different way.’
More than half of the singers failed the entrance examination; Wunderlich, however, passed and was accepted as a singing pupil for the forthcoming winter semester.” At the end of October the semester started, so he immediately had to look for a residence in Freiburg. He found a room in the heart of the historical centre of the city at the Rempartstrasse 3 [Note from Steff: The street is close to the area of Freiburg’s long standing alma mater, yet the original building No.3 does not exist anymore!]. The room even had a piano which would make it easy for him to practice.” [Pfister, page 40].
“At first, Fritz Wunderlich felt lost among the illustrious company of students who were coming from all directions. ‘I virtually had seen the world only as far as Kaiserslautern and by then didn’t know anybody but my inner circle of friends,’ he [Wunderlich] would tell years later. ‘Freiburg, to me, was a completely new world…’ The move from Kusel to Freiburg [note from Steff: Kusel is about 175 kilometres away from Freiburg] was hard for him and caused kind of culture shock. Huge parts of the city were still lying in ruins. Often he would be longing for the rural comfort of his Palatine home. It was the first time that he was away from home, torn away from the places of his childhood. New things flocked to him and would replace his old habits […]. [Pfister page 45, 46].
“… during the first weeks Fritz was already looking for a job to earn his living. He had to pay for his studies and his living himself as there was no financial support. Thus it was quite obvious that he would try it with dance music like he had already done in Kusel. He was experienced enough, too. Hackbraten [note from Steff: This was the nickname of his fellow student Hans-Martin Hackbarth with whom Wunderlich shared the room at the Rempartstrasse] wanted to accompany him at the piano so why not give it a try and maybe why not downstairs in their house at the Rempartstrasse, in the inn called “Breisacher Hof” - although this was kind of louche place and there was rumour of stabbings taking place there at night. The innkeeper agreed: It would be worth a try, preferably at the weekends. ‘And so we virtually played on demand, sometimes already starting on Fridays. We mostly played on Saturdays and even on Sundays when it was busy. It was always from 8 p.m. until midnight.’ Fritz would play the accordion and the big drum with his foot on the pedal. ‘At midnight the bouncer would go from table to table to collect the money for us. We got five and sometimes even ten Marks and afterwards would still sit together to play skat.’
They also sang together. ‘When Fritz was in very good mood he would imitate the jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong, ‘Blueberry Hill,’ for example, and play his trumpet. He would also sing like Armstrong. It was a magnificently funny skit.’ A few months later the duo became a trio. Another Academy music student who lived in an attic room in the same house took over the drums, Fritz continued playing the accordion and the trumpet, and Hackbarth accompanied them at the piano. After about a year they parted company as a band. Fritz joined another band called ‘Die flotten Fünf’ [The Smart Five]. Often he would play music in some surrounding rural inns and pubs outside of Freiburg.” [Pfister, page 47].
“During the first three semesters Wunderlich mainly focused on the horn studies. If he did not succeed with the singing he could at least become a good French hornist. ‘The first encounter with him was already very pleasant,’ his teacher Lothar Leonards told. ‘He was highly musical and had already played the French horn a little bit.’ ….. The singing lessons were without doubt more interesting and exciting. Twice a week Wunderlich climbed up the stairs to the first floor of the Wentzingerhaus where Margarethe von Winterfeldt gave her singing lessons in a corner room overlooking the Münsterplatz/Cathedral Square. She was from Potsdam and had been blind since her childhood. However, she possessed an incredible grasp. She had studied the piano and singing and later appeared as a concert singer. Early she would devote herself to the educational work, at first in Berlin and later, at the end of the war, in Freiburg where she overtook a singing master class.” [Pfister, page 47].
“In the first two or three semesters it was already becoming evident that Fritz Wunderlich‘s singing sounded exceptionally natural, that it was not artificial and nothing seemed to sound trained. …” [Pfister, page 48].
“Margarethe von Winterfeldt was extremely important for him. She gave him moral support, not only from a singing or musical-artistic point of view. She also took the place of his mother in some certain aspects, taught him gentlemanly manners and thus helped him to overcome the culture shock the move from Kusel to Freiburg had caused.
In retrospect two things were of central importance in Wunderlich’s singing education. The first was that Margarethe von Winterfeldt always referred the young singer to his very own instinct, in other words she instilled him with self-confidence and taught him to trust his emotions. On the other hand she always urged him to make himself aware of all that happened when he was singing. The singing was supposed to be something natural. Consequently it had to be based on natural conditions.” [Pfister, page 48, 49]
“Whenever he entered the classroom his teacher would already sit at the piano. At the beginning of each singing lesson she would chat with him trying to sense the current condition of her pupil on that day as well as his worries and hardships. Whenever she noticed that he was not having a good day and that he was stressed, she would adapt to this situation. In such a situation she never would have insisted on an obligatory workload.
For the most part her lesson was a technical one; Practicing intonation and resonance, singing intervals and doing breathing exercises over and over.” [Pfister, page 49].
“By now Fritz had settled down at the Academy. Everyone felt like belonging to a big family and even when there was no lesson scheduled one would call to the academy every day, first of all to practice but also to have a chat with the colleagues to exchange opinions. ‘Fritz was always embracing and sparkling. He got along with anybody and always set the right tone. Actually he was a cheerful person always beaming at anyone. No dark clouds seemed to spoil his mood; he just would not allow them to come near. He won all hearts, the women’s hearts too.” [Pfister, page 53].
“Fritz Wunderlich stayed with Winterfeldt [note from Steff: The first opera baritone of the Municipal Theater (Städtische Bühnen Freiburg), Fritz Harlan, meanwhile had offered to teach him] and continued to focus on ‘Lieder’ and old music. He mainly sang the famous ‘Arie antiche,’ a collection of Italian Baroque arias by Carissimi, Cesti, Bononcini, Händel, Lully and numerous other composers. In the evenings he would play the latest ‘Schlager’ [pop songs] at some dancing events. There could not have been a greater contrast. Yet, this did not have a negative but rather positive effect on Wunderlich and was a path breaking experience, as Wunderlich would confirm later: ‘In Freiburg I immediately came in contact with old music. Scheck [the director of the Music Academy] admitted me to the noted “Kammermusikkreis Scheck-Wenzinger [chamber music circle]. It had been founded in 1930 and was the first Baroque ensemble that played music with old instruments. Besides I played dance music to finance my studies. I played jazz, the trumpet and the accordion and I sang jazz, and the next morning I would go back to my studies and sing old arias - first and foremost the old masters such as Monteverdi and Lully. I think that this was a very important time for my later development because I learned something that is immensely important not only for a singer but also for any musician: The sense of style. If you have sense of style and you know how to distinguish things you practically will not be harmed. You can do any kind of music then without losing your face.’
It was this unerring instinct that mostly stunned Wunderlich’s fellow students: ‘This man had instinct,’ Manfred Schuler remembered, ‘Incomparable! Others would need years to understand things but he managed them at one go – not only vocally but also instinctively. Apart from that Fritz was extremely determined. It appeared to us that from the very first moment he knew exactly where his journey would lead him to. He just simply was convinced about that and he rigorously refined himself … concerning his singing he was highly intelligent and possessed an incredible intuition.’
Even his roommate Hans-Martin Hackbarth confirmed: ‘Fritz was extremely confident stylistically. Out of the blue he could sing and shape Haydn, Bach or Schubert stylistically confident. This had nothing to do with intelligence. He simply was a subtly sensing natural talent. He did not give it too much thoughts but he knew offhand that things had to be this and not that way. He acted instinctively. Without preparation he would instinctively bring off each kind of music.’ [Pfister page 55, 56].
“Incidentally, for some time past the two [Wunderlich and Hackbarth] had a new address: Tellstrasse 16, across the railroad in the “Stühlinger” [an old district of Freiburg]. They called their tenement “Villa Heuboden.” It was an attic flat on the sixth [Steff: 5th??] floor. Only Hackbarth had a normal room, Fritz would accommodate himself a home in the kitchen while the remaining rooms were used by the landlord. Each morning he came to the kitchen to get some water for his morning coffee. But Fritz didn’t mind at all. Usually he and Hackbarth spent the mornings at the Café Schill right around the corner. Each time they would sit at the same table, order the breakfast coffee and often even enjoy a piece of cake and play chess. Later on everybody would pursue his duties, attending lectures or having singing lessons.” [Pfister, page 56]. [Steff – on a personal note: My mother at that time quasi lived “around the corner” of the Tellstrasse, in the Guntramstrasse, which is the next street over to be correct. Here her family owned a house and she would live there from her birth until her marriage in 1967; The Café Schill was located at the Guntramstrasse and the building does still exist].
“Incidentally, Fritz was a perfect host and passionate cook. With planks he had crafted a little shelve. At the bottom there was space for his shoes, in the middle he stored some cookware and on the top he had his little cooker on which he would sizzle and fry all the evening.” [Pfister, page 66]
During his years of studies Wunderlich would take part in many concerts, mainly in Freiburg but also on other places. Concerts in Freiburg were, for example:
“Geistliche Abendmusik” [sacred evening music] organized by the Johann-Walter Kantorei at the Lutherhirche [Luther Church] on 28 June 1953.
[Steff on another personal note: My mother was confirmed the very same year in this Protestant church which had been destroyed by the 1944 bombardment and whose reconstruction was finished in 1953 with the very first masses taking place early that year].
Concert “Konzert zum Totensonntag” with the Freiburg Bach Choir at the Paulussaal on 22 November 1953, conductor: Theodor Egel.
Bach Choir concert “Weihnachtsoratorium” [Christmas oratorio] in December 1953, at the Luther Church.
“Der Bettelstudent” by Carl Millöcker, Wunderlich in the role of Jan Janicki,
Stadttheater Freiburg/Municipal Theatre (“opera house”), 1954
Concert at the City Hall, Haydn oratorio “Die Jahreszeiten” [The Seasons],
11 June 1955, conductor: Rolf Ummenhofer
Wunderlich also took part in a few concerts with the “Freiburger Singgemeinschaft,” a male chorus that performed folk songs from many countries with Wunderlich singing some solos.
Around this time Wunderlich was also discovered for another musical genre:
Willi Stech, the leading conductor of the “Kleines Rundfunkorchester” of the SWF [a local radio station] wanted Wunderlich to make light entertainment recordings with him: popular and operetta songs as well as waltz airs. It was on 8 December 1953 [Steff: or 9?] that Wunderlich made his very first studio recordings at the SWF studios, and the recording sessions would continue the following years, even after Wunderlich had ended his studies at the Freiburg Academy and left for Stuttgart.
If you are interested, please look up for the CD “Wunderlich Populär” (Polydor) which I highly recommend. It is a compilation of some of those light entertainment songs (“Schlager”) recorded with the “Kleines Rundfunkorchester des SWF” under the baton of Willi Stech. A few tracks even have solo numbers of Fritz Wunderlich playing the trumpet.
It was not appreciated by everybody, however, that Wunderlich made this kind of recordings:
“Only recently there had been some trouble because he [Wunderlich] had repeatedly recorded light entertainment songs with Willi Stech at the regional studio. Some Academy professors apparently thought that such activities would not benefit his voice, and, what would be even worse, would stain his reputation as a “serious singer” and the outstanding reputation of the Freiburg Academy. Just imagine: A singing student, the most talented and successful of all, drifts off to popular music singing tearjerkers instead of taking his vocation of being an earnest singer.” [Pfister, page 70].
However, Wunderlich would continue recording this kind of music.
On 21 and 23 July 1954 Fritz Wunderlich sang Tamino in Mozart’s “Zauberflöte” at the Freiburg Paulussaal. These student performances were organized by the Freiburg Academy. It was the first time he would sing the role of Tamino (Tamino was to become his signature role) and strangely enough it would also be the last role he sang before his untimely death; this was in summer 1966 when the Stuttgart Opera company visited the Edinburgh.
In a letter to his mother Wunderlich shared his impressions of the first Freiburg performance:
“‘Before the performance started I was in a state of complete daze. When the overture finished and I jumped onto the stage to open the piece I knew that this performance would decide my whole life … When I was singing the “Bildnis” aria right at the beginning all my energy suddenly came back; I didn’t noticed the 2,000 people in the audience anymore but I knew that all would be over if I didn’t regain my composure. When I had sung the last notes, I thought to myself ‘Good heavens, let them clap!’ And when I heard the thunderous applause of 2,000 people cheering enthusiastically I almost collapsed out of joy. I knew I had won. Hereafter I sang as I had never sung before and I was borne by the feeling of being in contact with the public.
When I came on the stage after the performance was finished the applause became a hurricane, flowers were thrown onto the stage, I bewilderedly stood there and didn’t know what happened to me. I could not believe that Freiburg’s theatre audience would acknowledge me so quickly. With this success I have finally pushed the gate open to my profession which I adore so very much! All deprivations and worries are awarded now. I had to come onto the stage again and again … My mind is profoundly happy and apart from that I am also proud a little bit’” [Pfister, page 67, 68).
Towards the end of his studies in Freiburg, early in 1955, Wunderlich was offered a contract to sing at the Freiburg opera. Only a few weeks later the Stuttgart opera offered him a five-year contract after he had auditioned there. He accepted the Stuttgart offer:
“’Actually, Fritz was hooked by the offer from Freiburg,’ his fellow student Manfred Schuler remembers. ‘But then the offer from Stuttgart came and I still remember Fritz saying: ‘Now I suddenly have two offers. In Freiburg I could immediately sing the great roles, in Stuttgart, however, I only get a little contract. Nevertheless I prefer going to Stuttgart; in Freiburg I would burn out all too sudden. I would have to perform on stage each night, and that’s not good for a novice.’”
Wunderlich completed his studies in Freiburg in July 1955. His contract with the Württemberg State Theatre in Stuttgart was to start on 1 August 1955. His farewell letter to the Freiburg Music Academy concludes with:
“…I would like to thank the Academy, first of all Herrn Professor Dr. Scheck, for the financial support. Without this it would have been impossible for me to complete my studies. In gratitude for this I will do everything to reciprocate the trust the Academy and all my teachers set into me.
The five years of studies that I now leave behind me have been the most valuable and wonderful in my life. They made me a human being that is aware about its destination and for which only one thing counts which is to reach this goal.
Again, let me express my deepest thanks. May all young people who study at the Academy, make so many valuable experiences for their lives as I am allowed to do now.’ Fritz Wunderlich.” [Pfister, page 74]
Although Fritz Wunderlich left Freiburg for Stuttgart he would return to Freiburg for many more recording sessions and for concerts.
Among the venues Wunderlich appeared at in Freiburg were the “Paulussaal/Paulus Hall, the Luther Church, the Stadthalle (Civic Hall), the Municipal Theatre and the Konrad’s Church [Steff on another personal note: The latter venue, the Konrad’s Church, was only a stone’s throw away from the flat I lived in for about ten years – just another coincidence!].
Incidentally, as already mentioned, Wunderlich badly suffered from homesickness during his Freiburg time. Out of this emotion he composed the nowadays famous Kusel-Lied/Kusel song, “Mein Kusel in der Pfalz.”
“At times he would climb up on his own the countless stairs of the Freiburg Cathedral tower to look in giddy heights towards his homeland. He felt homesick and would often suffer from his love of his home and the memories related to it. It was during the first months in Freiburg that out of such an emotion he wrote down a few rhymes up on the cathedral’s tower, and years later the rhymes, set to music by himself, would set forth on a journey around the world.” [Pfister, page 45]
Listen to Fritz Wunderlich singing the Kusel Lied:
Well, I really hope you enjoyed my little “Fritz Wunderlich in Freiburg” journey. Please don’t forget to look at the attached pictures. In a post following this I will post a few tracks for your listening pleasure. These are – apart from “Vergiss mein nicht” all live and studio recordings from Freiburg.
Incidentally, to commemorate the great lyric tenor’s 50th anniversary there are two new official releases by Deutsche Grammophone:
“Fritz Wunderlich – The 50 Greatest Tracks,” (Double CD). I understand these tracks were selected by Wunderlich’s wife Eva.
„Fritz Wunderlich – Complete Studio Recordings,“ 32 CD box set.
Please visit the official website of the Fritz Wunderlich Gesellschaft/Society
Continued: “In Memoriam Fritz Wunderlich”
Here are the promised recordings, five of them are from Freiburg and the last one is from Berlin.
„Selig sind, die da Leid tragen“ (Blessed Are They That Mourn) from 'In terra pax' (oratorio breve) by Frank Martin,
Fritz Wunderlich & the Philharmonic Orchestra Freiburg,
Conductor: Theodor Egel
Live recording from the Paulussaal, Freiburg, 22 Nov. 1953
To be continued...
Continued “In Memoriam Fritz Wunderlich”
„Mädele” by Walter Jäger, studio recording, 8 or 9 Dec. 1953, Freiburg
Fritz Wunderlich’s very first radio studio recording session
Kleines Rundfunkorchester des SWF, conducted by Willi Stech, SWF studio
(“Mädele” means ‘girl’ in our local Baden dialect).
To be continued ...
Continued “In Memoriam Fritz Wunderlich”
„Du, du liegst mir im Herzen“ (You, You are in My Heart), traditional song Fritz Wunderlich with the 'Freiburger Singgemeinschaft,'
Live recording from the Paulussaal, Freiburg, 10 Oct.1954
Freiburger Singgemeinschaft (male choir), conductor: Ernst Scherer
Special arrangement for Wunderlich by Ernst Scherer
To be continued ...
Continued “In Memoriam Fritz Wunderlich”
“Carissima mia” by Hans Berner, studio recording, 24 Oct. 1955, Freiburg
Kleines Rundfunkorchester des SWF, conducted by Willi Stech, SWF studio
With a trumpet solo by Fritz Wunderlich
To be continued ...
Continued “In Memoriam Fritz Wunderlich”
“Vergiss mein nicht” (Non ti scordar di me/Forget Me Not) by Ernesto Di Curtis, German lyrics by Ernst Marischka
Live Recording, Berlin, Philharmonie, 19 Febr. 1966
Grosses RIAS – Unterhaltungsorchester, conducted by Hans Carste
There are 4 recordings of Wunderlich singing this song which are two studio and two live recordings. This one is the 4th recording and it was recorded the year Wunderlich died. Listen how he sings his heart out towards the end of the song!
„Und kommt der Tag,
Der uns den Abschied bringt,
Bitte, vergiss mein nicht!“
“And when the day will come
That we have to say goodbye,
Please don’t forget me!”
Yesterday, 20th November 2016, Eva Wunderlich, widow of the legendary German tenor Fritz Wunderlich, passed away shy of her 82nd birthday and 50 years after the untimely death of her husband. Fritz Wunderlich and Eva Jungnitsch, a harpist, got married in 1956.
My heartfelt sympathy to the Wunderlich family!
Tenor Piotr Bezcala who is friends with the Wunderlich family posted the news yesterday on his facebook site:
„Unsere Freundin und Frau von meinem geliebten Fritz Wunderlich ist heute von uns gegangen ... Sie war die positivste, klügste Frau mit sanftestem Laecheln und grossem Wissen ... Wir werden Sie sehr vermissen! R.I.P. liebe Eva Wunderlich.“
[Our friend and wife of my beloved Fritz Wunderlich left us today. She was the most positive and intelligent woman with the most gentle smile and a big knowledge… We will miss her very much! R.I.P., dear Eva Wunderlich.]
Yesterday I came across a you-tube video of an interview given by the German tenor Fritz Wunderlich which took place during the Salzburg Festival in summer 1966. That season Wunderlich was singing in several performances of Mozart’s “Entführung aus dem Serail” (venue: Kleines Festspielhaus, Salzburg) and he was also giving a “Lieder” recital on 14th August (venue: Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). Hard to believe that the tenor would pass away only one month later, just shy of his 36th birthday!
You can find the interview (German language only!) here:
The ten minute interview was only broadcast after Wunderlich’s death (17th Sept. 1966), on 20th November 1966. It took place at an inn at the “Gaisberg” /Salzburg. The interviewer was Ernst-Ludwig Gausmann (1928 – 2017), a German radio journalist and musicologist who was married to the Austrian soprano Leonie Rysanek.
I picked out an excerpt from the interview (starts at minute 7:27) and translated it into English:
Ernst-Ludwig Gausmann: „Herr Wunderlich, nun haben Sie neben Ihrer Tätigkeit an der Opernbühne und dem Liedgesang beziehungsweise Oratoriengesang, glaub‘ ich, in der letzten Zeit auch etwas der leichten Muse gehuldigt.“
“Mr. Wunderlich, I think apart from your activities on the opera stage and of singing “Lieder” and oratorio music you lately also have paid a little homage to the light entertainment.”
Fritz Wunderlich: „Ja, das kann man sich als Tenor doch nicht entgehen lassen! Abgesehen von der Operette – ich habe bei vielen Operettenaufnahmen mitgewirkt- habe ich herausgebracht zwei Langspielplatten, die heißen „Welterfolge großer Tenöre.“ Darauf singe ich die bekannten großen Tenorlieder: Von Joseph Schmidt „Ein Lied geht um die Welt,“ Tiritomba,“ von Mario Lanza „Granada,“ von Gigli „O sole mio“ und so weiter und so weiter. Nun darf ich Ihnen dazu nur ganz allgemein sagen: Für mich gibt es keine leichte, keine schwere Musik, für mich gibt es nur gute und schlechte Musik. Und für mich gibt es nur eines: alles was ich mache versuche ich so gut und mit dem größtmöglichen Einsatz als es mir irgend geht, zu machen.“
“Yes, surely no tenor could miss out on that! Apart from operetta – and I have taken part in many operetta recordings – I have released two recordings titled “Welterfolge großer Tenöre” (World Successes of Great Tenors). There I sing the famous great tenor songs of Joseph Schmidt, “Ein Lied geht um die Welt” and “Tiritomba,” “Granada” of Mario Lanza, and “O sole mio” of Gigli, and so on and so on. Generally speaking let me just say that for me there’s no light and no serious[heavy] music, there’s only good and bad music. And to me only one thing is important : Everything I do I try to do as good as possible and with best possible commitment.”
Incidentally, in the interview Wunderlich speaks about two recordings but mentions only one title which is “Welterfolge großer Tenöre.” (recorded January 1965) . Actually, the title of the second album was „Du bist die Welt für mich“ (recorded in May 1965 – apparently in a one-day recording session!) which included “Be My Love” by Brodszky and Wunderlich’s unmatched “Granada.”
It is so many years ago, that a poster here asked about the achievements of Fritz Wunderlich. I cannot locate this post at the moment and don’t remember the name of the poster and if he’s still around.
Anyway, I was just going through e-mails from the past and came across an e-mail from a friend who, like me, is member of the Fritz Wunderlich Gesellschaft in Kusel.
He – now in his 70s - has been a devoted fan and researcher for decades (never saw Wunderlich live), a very knowledgeable man, whom I consult whenever I have questions about the tenor. He never fails in giving an extensive answer and at times even surprises me with amazing "goodies." (Yet he still refuses to provide me with the mysterious photo showing Mario and Fritz which he has kept under lock and keys for years! - Only kidding!)
Asked about a list of performances some years ago, he gave me the following numeric overview of Fritz Wunderlich’s career, which, I think, is quite impressive for a man who died in his mid 30s. These are known performances, so it is quite likely that even more will be unearthed for the time to come:
485 opera and operetta performances in Stuttgart/Germany (the city where he got his first contract at the State Opera after having graduated from the Freiburg Music Academy in 1955)
288 opera performances in Munich/Germany
102 opera performances in Vienna/Austria
Ca. 110 Opera performances in other cities which included Germany (Hamburg: 10, Cologne: 5, West Berlin: 5, East Berlin: 1), Europe (Straßburg/France: 4; Salzburg/Austria: at least 20; Rome/Italy), Argentina/Buenos Aires: 14
153 concerts, oratorios, masses, passions and „entertainment evenings.“
38 Lieder recitals and 45 more with Hubert Giesen at the piano.
Countless studio recordings for German and Austrian radio stations such as WDR, NDR, SFB, HR, SR, SWF, SDR, BR, ORF + Radio Hilversum.
TV broadcasts for BR, SDR, SFB and ORF (Germany and Austria)
And not forgetting all his commercial studio recordings, his first in 1953 in Freiburg, while still a student – at the age of only 23 (Wunderlich: „Freiburg, the „decisive phase in my life“)
In his biography „Fritz Wunderlich“ the author, Werner Pfister, titled the penultimate chapter with „Wie eine Kerze, die an beiden Enden brennt,“ (Like a candle that burns at both ends“), which just reminded me of what Jeff Rense once commented so poignantly on Mario Lanza in the documentary, „Singing tot he Gods“ by Mark Kidel: „It sounds to me as if there were probably two or three people in one person in terms of … passion and emotion that were assembled in that one human body. It was almost too much for one person.“
Incidentally, the Wunderlichs (his children) passed their family archive to Austria just recently, where it is sighted. Plans are to make it part of a museum which, I understand, yet is in the early planning stage and which is to present the great singers of the 20th century. A good thing and great idea on the one hand, yet, regarding Fritz Wunderlich in particular, a decision against the museum which is located in his hometown Kusel, Germany.
I hope you like the photo below. It shows the private Fritz Wunderlich with friends in 1956 (aged 26) at the swimming baths in Kusel. This photo was printed in "Die Rheinpfalz" daily newspaper (issue of 25 September 2020) last year on the occasion of Wunderlich's 90th birthday!