There is perhaps no tenor more lauded for his interpretation in the German repertoire than Fritz Wunderlich. The German tenor worked mostly in his home country until his untimely death in 1966. American audiences were robbed of his Metropolitan Opera debut, and there is surely a hole missing where his growth as an artist would have been fostered.
In honor of what would have been his 87th birthday on Sept. 26, here are Fritz Wunderlich’s five best German-language recordings.
Mozart: Die Zauberflöte
Wunderlich’s interpretation of Mozart’s last masterwork goes down as (arguably) one of the best in history, with “Dies Bildnis Ist Bezaubernd Schön” serving as his breakthrough into the opera world. He recorded the opera on four different recordings, including with the Berlin Philharmoniker and Wiener Staatsoper. One of his most popular renditions of “Dies Bildnis,” however, is from a recital in Salzburg in 1965, which can thankfully be found on YouTube.
Schumann: Dichterliebe, Op. 48
Wunderlich’s only recording of Robert Schumann’s most famous song-cycle was released with Hubert Giesen at the piano. The passionate set, translated to “A Poet’s Love” is a romantic and fervid, both musically and dramatically.
Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail
Alongside singers Ruth-Margret Putz and Renate Holm, Wunderlich recorded Mozart’s opera of “too many notes” with the Mozartium Orchester in 1961. Additionally, he recorded the opera with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in 1965 with Erika Koth, Lotte Schadle and Friedrich Lenz.
Schubert: Die schone Mullerin, Op. 25
Sung to the poetry of Wilhelm Müller, Wunderlich spun magic into Schubert’s first (and arguably most important) song cycle. With 20 songs, they range from ecstasy to tragedy in the span of just a few songs. A famous recording again includes pianist Hubert Giesen.
Beethoven: Adelaide, Op. 46
This lied by Ludwig von Beethoven is very popular among tenors, though Wunderlich added much sensitivity to this masterpiece with his florid musicality. Set to the poem by Friedrich von Matthisson, the almost seven-minute song pours its love for the perfect woman, comparing her to evening winds and silvery bells.