The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (26): Sunday’s tenor

The Slipped Disc daily comfort zone (26): Sunday’s tenor


norman lebrecht

April 11, 2020

Was there ever a greater German tenor?



  • Alexander Tarak says:

    Wonderful artist. Fabulously clear and “pure”sound.
    Another great German tenor I love listening to is Wolfgang Windgassen (slightly different type,I know).

  • IntBaritone says:

    There was not.

  • John Marks says:

    I agree, he was the G.O.A.T.; in that category–so far.

    (As mom always said, some times the fat lady sings, and it still isn’t over.)

    atb/Shalom/Pax Vobiscum

  • fflambeau says:

    That’s quite a lineup on the album. Well done!

  • Greatest German lyric tenor of all time. Listen to his ‘Et incarnatus est’ from Schubert’s Mass in E-flat under Erich Leinsdorf.
    Starts at 21:40.

  • DG says:

    Beautiful recording. When I think of those performers who died way too young and what we all collectively lost when they passed, Wunderlich is definitely on that list.

    That might make for an interesting SD post – who are the greatest performer talents lost too young?

    • Ms.Melody says:

      Concita Supervia, (1895-1936). Lucia Valentini Terrani (1946-1998), Cloe Elmo(1910-1962)
      Jussi Bjorling(1911-1960), Leonard Warren (1911-1960) . More recently, Johan Botha (1965-2016)

      • Cornishman says:

        Yes, you’re right – there are loads of singers who died too young. I was just thinking of some basses and baritones – Bastianini, Guilio Neri, Luciano Neroni, Ivar Andresen, Hermann Uhde, Norman Treigle, Donald Gramm. Maybe not the healthiest theme to think about for long, though, just at the moment…

  • JC says:


  • pianoronald says:

    Wunderlich was definitely the greatest German tenor ever.

  • Cornishman says:

    No – at least in his repertoire I can’t think of anyone who’s even come close. And he died when there was still so much more to come.

  • Fred says:

    yes, Richard Tauber for one….

  • Christian Elsner says:

    My all time favorite!!!

  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    The performances of J.S.Bach by Karl Munchinger and Karl Richter are still worth hearing, even if things are done differently today. The other day I have listened to some of the performances of Beethoven Symphonies by Klemperer and Chailly. In 1950’s Klemperer’s tempos were bit slow, but I preferred them over the breathless tempos of Chailly. Although I am not a fan of heavy performances of Baroque and classical works made in the past, today sometimes the performances fail to capture the spiritual aspect of the works.

  • Zacharías Galaviz Guerra says:

    I would only daresay perhaps Peter Schreier, may he rest in peace. Both legends!

    • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

      Peter Schreier was very smart, but he had an irritating edge to his voice.

    • HugoPreuss says:

      Thanks for mentioning Schreier, I completely agree. And esp. as Evangelist in both passions Schreier was unsurpassed. Yes, his voice had an “edge”, but that was precisely what made his voice so unique and beautiful (at least for me and other admirers). I also prefer Schreier as a Lieder singer, as a Mozart tenor, and in the little known (outside of Germany) romantic German repertoire (Lortzing, Nikolai – try them!).

      I’ve heard Schreier on stage in opera, lied, oratorio, also as evangelist PLUS conductor – amazing. His evangelist literally made me cry during one particularly heartfelt performance in Lübeck, when he was communicating the pain like I had never heard before or since.

  • Manuel says:

    What a wonderful recording. Thanks for sharing it.

    Yet, it is a silly remark to make. Sorting artist in categories such as Greater, top, first place, sixth place… “X was good in M, but Y had a better N” and so on and so forth. It is silly, and does not merit further comments.

  • Micaela Bonetti says:

    Peter Schreier.

  • Shirley Ridyard says:


  • Moishe says:

    Joseph Schmidt. Pesach sameach.

    • David K. Nelson says:

      Now there was a voice. He was born in Ukraine however, then territory claimed by Austria/Hungary, later placed into Rumania.

  • Melisande says:

    This recording of Bach’s Matthaus-Passion from 1965 is still recommandable! From the cast and conductor it is only the Dutch soprano Elly Ameling who is still alive.

  • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

    RE: “Was there ever a greater German tenor?”

    No. (That was easy!)

    There is only one other German tenor (IMHO) who even comes close to being as wonderful as the Divine Fritz. Unfortunately, this one other tenor was Hitler’s favorite musician, but that’s not the tenor’s fault. I’m speaking (of course) of the great PETER ANDERS. He was just as smart as Fritz, and his technique was equally great, and he had the same feeling of boundless joy, pleasure in life, that Fritz had, but Anders’ voice sounded less like an instrument, and more like a person, than Fritz (Fritz’s voice had that wonderful baroque-piccolo-coronet quality). Anders was also a bit larger than Fritz; he (Anders) sang some of the non-comprimario Wagner roles like Walther von Stolzing and Lohengrin, while Fritz limited his Wagner to the little roles like Steuermann, the Hirt, and Walther von der Vogelweide.

    Here, compare:



    • Cornishman says:

      Interesting point. And of course another who died tragically young.

    • MezzoLover says:

      Completely agreed. I consider Peter Anders to be the ideal “operetta” tenor, and it is not unreasonable to suggest that Anders may have a stronger claim on the title “the greatest German tenor” than Wunderlich did, based on the larger number of roles he sang throughout his career and his considerably richer artistic legacy.

      How ironic, then, Anders also died in an accident, at the height of his career.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    It is not possible to meaningfully compare artists we can listen to with those we can only read about, so these “greatest ever” discussions really mean – greatest who made recordings. And Wunderlich fortunately lived in the era of modern sound.

    But even if we can bring in artists of the electrical 78 rpm era there are still some names that need to be considered in making such a claim

    Maybe a comparison of Wunderlich with a genuine heldentenor is a bit absurd, but what of Max Lorenz? A German tenor and a great one.

    And Franz Völker was almost as versatile as Wunderlich. Also German, and also great.

  • ira says:

    we should be cautious about “ever” when we mean in living memory. how about e.g.slezak?

    • HugoPreuss says:

      Three cheers for Slezak, a voice as gigantic as the man. He is present on old recordings. Here he is with “Ah! Matilde” from “Guilleaume Tell”, in German. The top notes are more than a match for Pavarotti and Florez.

      BTW, Slezak was also a gifted and humerous author who did several very funny books on his life and career. And he HATED the Nazis…

  • Edgar Self says:

    I heard Max Lorenz in 1943 as a last-minute substitute for Siegmund in “Die Walkuer” in Bayreuth, second cycle, conductor Keilberth. Kate fir Lorenz, early for me, but I didn’t enjoy him in a cast that included Windgassen, Moedl, Greindl, Neidlinger, Von Milankovic, and Hans Hotter.

    Franz Voelker was better, a fine Lohengrin. Other “German” tenors were three Danes Helge Roswaenge, Aksel Schiotz, and Laurit Melchior, the best Siegmund I can imagine. Walther Ludwig, Peter Anders, the Austrian Julius Patzak if caught erly enough,, Ernst Haefliger who may have been Swiss, certainly Joseph Schmidt, Tauber, the excellent Karl Liebl, Karl Erb, Christoph Pregardien, all offered much, but Wunderlich more still … “He even made “Adelaide” graceful, with perfect diction even in “auf jeder purpur Blaettchen”. But Schreier? Schreier was too-well named.

  • Modi says:

    Back in the day, I had tickets for his Met debut In Don Giovanni. Alas, it was not to be. I treasure his many recordings especially, Die Schone Mullerin, which is so exquisite and masterful. He takes Schubert to the highest level. His innate musicianship, artistic imagination, ardor, dramatic impulse and nuance of phrasing is unsurpassed.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Correct year was 1954 for Max Lorenz as Siegmund in Bayreuth, sorry, glaucoma acting up again if anyone relates to it.

    Has everyone observed Wunderlich’s unusual fcial bones, and remembered his musical training as French horn player? Some say it’s all in the mask, the nasal-oral cavity. Whatever it is, he had it in spades.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Another good German tenor in his day was Marcel Wittrisch, born to a German family in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1901 and living until 1955. He was contemporary and rival to Franz Voelker, Richard Tauber, Peter Anders, and Hel e Rosvaenge, sang first operetta, then graduating to Lohengrin,Siegmund, and parsifal. I never saw him but enjoyed some of his records and have been trying to remember his name for days. It finally came to me just before I went goggle-eyed to Google Like Tauber, Hotter, and Anders, he made films in the 1930s.

    On the baritone side at that time were Heinrich Rehkemper, Heinrich Schlusnus, the unforgettable Wotan Hans Hotter, and particularly Gerhard Huesch, one of the finest Lieder singers before the time of Fischer-Dieskau, Schwarzkopf, and Hans Hotter. Of all these, Fritz Wunderlich is their worthy colleague, irreplaceable, peerless among all German tenors of which there is any record.