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.
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.
This recording is the first official release in any format of this once-in-a-lifetime concert performance featuring Dame Joan Sutherland and Fritz Wunderlich. In 1959 performances of Handel were just beginning to embrace the original instrument movement making this recording an invaluable historic record of performance practice. In addition to musicological interest, the CDs present Joan Sutherland at the beginning of her illustrious career in the full bloom of youth. She was flown in as a last minute replacement for the scheduled soprano and proceeded to give a virtuoso performance of the demanding title role. Full of Handel's gorgeous melodies and with vocal fireworks in bountiful supply, it is no wonder that Sutherland completely awed the German public. She is joined by Fritz Wunderlich, the acclaimed German tenor, in their one-and-only collaboration. He as well was a last minute replacement and rises to the exacting demands of Handel. His rich and pliant tone is perfectly suited to the technical and dramatic demands of the opera.