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Fritz Wunderlich (1930 - 1966)


Although Wunderlich’s parents were both musical (his mother a violinist and his father a choirmaster), when Fritz was only five his father, unable to tolerate a combination of pressure from the local Nazi party and the effects of an old war injury, committed suicide. The family, who had for a short time run an inn, then experienced considerable material difficulties, with Fritz helping to support his mother and brother through money earned from playing the accordion and French horn in local dance bands. He also took part in local amateur operatic productions, for instance singing Peter / Hänsel und Gretel.

When Wunderlich reached employment age he worked in a bakery, where his colleagues and customers, recognizing his vocal gifts, encouraged him to undertake formal study. He won a scholarship to the Freiburg Conservatory where he financed the cost of study through his dance band work. Between 1950 and 1955 he studied voice with Margarethe von Winterfeldt, piano with Friedrich Finke and horn with Lothar Leonards, the last assisting the development of his extraordinary breath control. During the 1952–1953 season he undertook his first professional engagements, taking part in concerts in the Palatinate and singing in Bach’s Easter Oratorio at Esslingen; the following season, 1953–1954, he gave his first broadcasts, singing operetta excerpts for South West German radio, Kaiserslautern; and during 1954 he sang Tamino / Die Zauberflöte in a student production.

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