The man who discovered Fritz Wunderlich

The greatest German lyric tenor of the 20th century? Perhaps of all time?

Well, someone had to spot the talent.

The man who did was Emmerich Smola, chief conductor for 40 years of the radio orchestra in Kaiserslautern, southwest Germany.

Starting in 1946 as a double-bass player, Smola became conductor two years later. In 1949 he heard this stunning voice in a programme about the Berlin composer Carl Friedrich Zelter, Goethe’s buddy. ‘Book him,’ said Em. He managed to make several records with the golden lad before he was snapped up by the majors.


Smola died on Tuesday, aged 89.

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  • Norman, while I’m not given to superlatives, Wunderlich at least has to be the greatest German lyric tenor I have ever heard. His leaving us at such a young age was a loss not just for his homeland, but for us all.

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