These pre-Chicago recordings of Fritz Reiner with the Pittsburghers is a reminder of his greatness as a conductor. It also restores to the catalog his recordings of some composers he wasn't closely identified with. Shostakovitch, for example, wasn't a regular on Reiner's studio schedule, but should have been, for this Sixth bristles with sardonic wit and energy. The Kodaly Dances, of course, were right up Reiner's alley, and get a smashing performance. The shorter works too, are first class, especially the Bart243;k Hungarian Sketches and another Reiner calling card, Kabalevsky's Colas Breugnon Overture. Weiner's string Divertimento is charming, but the real prize may be Glinka's Kamarinskaya, given a peformance that shimmers and glistens with delicacy and life. Sony's restoration of the 1945-1947 recordings is faultless.
Fritz Wunderlich's lyricism, boundless musicianship and exquisite diction made him one of the great tenors of the 20th century. In September 2016, DG will commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death with the release of Complete Studio Recordings on Deutsche Grammophon, a comprehensive 32CD box set of sacred works, opera and operetta, lieder and popular song. The collection includes Decca, Philips and Polydor recordings as well, several appearing internationally for the first time.
Alessandro Scarlatti’s St John Passion was the first Passion setting written in seventeenth-century Italy. Scarlatti treats the role of the Evangelist (composed in the mezzo-soprano register) in highly unusual fashion, giving his narrative numerous emotional passages. The Voice of Christ (bass) is invariably haloed by a string accompaniment.
One of Fritz Wunderlich’s (1930–1966) most fascinating qualities was his incredible range of musical skills. He was probably Germany’s greatest tenor who could perform virtually anything in the repertoire for high male voice – from Schlager music to arias from J. S. Bach's Passions; from Mozart to music of the 20th century; from the greatest tenor hits of all times to unknown gems. His musicality and his seriousness as an artist turned everything he sang into something extraordinary.
Fritz Reiner was one of the foremost conductors of his time. Crowning his long career in Europe and America was the decade from 1954 to 1963 as music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra – an illustrious partnership that ranks along such other historical tenures as Karajan’s in Berlin, Szell’s in Cleveland and Bernstein’s in New York.