Today I embark on a sequence of posts, under the title “1001 ways to die”. The inspiration for this came to me back in 1980 when I was a graduate student in the USA. The vastness of the country, the incredible gap between the avarage person and the ultra high net worth individuals, among other things, led me one night to declare among my fellow students that at some stage of my life I will compile this as a study of human affairs during a life long journey.
On January 2011, 31 years laters, I am embarking on it, starting with Fritz Wunderlich, a German Tenor who died accidentally in 1966 before arriving at t the peak of his career.
He fell from a stairway onto the stone floor below in a friend’s country house in Oberderdingen near Maulbronn. He died in the University Clinic of Heidelberg just days before his 36th birthday. In the documentary that I have appended at the end of the post, his wife mentioned that Wunderlich was on the phone prior to descending the stairs, and while talking on the phone, he untied his boots. As he started the descend, he got tangled up, and fell on the stone ground.
Herman Prey, a contemporary German baritone, who had become a friend with Wunderlich and sang together since 1959, wrote in his diary after the tenor’s death in 1966:
“My friend Fritz is dead. This simple sentence becomes more incomprehensible to me with every day. Our friendly and artistic collaboration developed into something very rare in the last few years. We shared many amusing adventures and spent many contemplative hours together. He could discuss life’s problems and musical issues for nights on end. The most beautiful hours of my career were those spent together with him on the stage or in front of a microphone. We never discussed phrasing in advance or how we would colour certain passages – the sympathy was simply there. We used to play piano duets for hours, or roamed the forests making plans for the future.
When we first mounted the stage together during the “Schweigsame Frau” rehearsals at Salzburg in 1959, we knew that our paths would converge then on. In those brief years we learned how to complement one another. He knew a tremendous amount about singing. I learned a lot from him. With his immense natural musical talent, this son of the gods was still at the beginning of a meteoric career. What might he not have achieved, given the time? At Schubert’s graveside Grillparzer said: “Here Death buried a rich treasure, and even richer promise.” How this statement applies to Fritz too! When we were last together he told me: “The best years are yet to come; a singer only gains command over tears at forty.” He did not know that he already had it.
Wunderlich sings Schubert, Strauss and Wolf (1965)
Our dreams were truly boundless. We wanted to become the heavenly twins of song. Fate decided otherwise, decreeing that I be left alone, a deserted twin. We virtually improvised this record, our last one, together with Fritz Neumeyer and his musicians. Listening to it today, there are points at which I cannot really tell who is singing what. Our voices melted together to form one. The world is mourning for a gifted singer of his generation. I mourn for a friend and brother in song the likes of whom I will never find again.”
FRITZ WUNDERLICH – ARTE DOCUMENTARY
In addition to listening to his divine voice, in what ever he has recorded, I strongly recommend to those of you who can understand German, to view the wonderful documentary of “arte”. It comes in 7 pieces. Every minute is worth it!