A great voice from the past silenced too soon
Larry VanDeSande | Mason, Michigan United States | 05/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Here is a selection of popular lieder by Fritz Wunderlich, who died tragically at age 36, silencing one of the century's great voices. Surely no accounting of great artists who died before their maturity could be complete without Wunderlich's name.
Here he displays the wonderful timbre, range and sensitivity in his voice, which was conspicuously consistent across the range, regardless of the music he was interpreting or the venue in which he performed. The character of his voicing, enunciation and the structure of his tone and vibrato are virtually without fault throughout this recording, made in the studio with both accompanist and orchestra in 1963, three years before his untimely death.
I bought this to hear his interpretation of Beethoven's only song cycle, "To the Distant Beloved." The notes to this issue concentrate on the music-drama inherent in the songs. I wouldn't call this accounting of the Beethoven as dramatic as singers perform today. It is miles ahead of the inadequate concert performance recorded a year or two back by Goerne and Brendel but, in terms of drama, Wunderlich's work is neither as dramatic or episodic as recordings by Stephen Genz and Thomas Allen.
However, no singer quite has Wunderlich's instrument, a firm, supple and sensitive voice that adjusts to any music and any situation. It is also a bit unfair to compare the baritones above to Wunderlich's tenor.
I found equal pleasure in his renditions of Haydn's lesser known and lesser quality songs and the group of orchestral Strauss lied performed on this disk. Wunderlich performs the Strauss with far more drama and flair than the Beethoven, where he seems almost an introverted lost sould seeking lost love.
All told, this is a treasurable tome from one of the great singers in history in good mid-1960s sound that has dimension, quality and depth. The soloist may be a bit more forward than we epxect in the period-influenced new century but this is no matter. Here is an exhibition of singing that is above criticism and beyond approach. Even the greatest singers in history would weep gladly upon hearing this CD. So will you."