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Bass

Gottlob Frick, German Bass

By November 26, 2023No Comments

This was a beautiful voice. In his time, Frick was he leading bass in the Austro-German repertory.  Frick had a compact, powerful bass aand unchallenged cutting power (in the house). Sir Thomas Beecham, having long delayed recording his enchanting interpretation of Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail, found in Frick a deep bass capable of executing Osmin’s runs cleanly and managing handily the requisite trills. Frick’s recorded interpretations made his name a familiar one throughout the world, even though he confined most of his work to Europe. During the decade from the early ’50s onward, Frick was a peripatetic visitor to the recording studio, preserving some roles on multiple sets.

Wagner, Lohengrin, “Mein Herr und Gott”

DER KÖNIG
(mit grosser Feierlichkeit in die
Mitte vorschreitend)

Mein Herr und Gott, nun ruf ich dich,

(Alle entblössen das Haupt und lassen
sich zur feierlichsten Andacht an)
dass du dem Kampf zugegen seist!
Durch Schwertes Sieg ein Urteil sprich,
das Trug und Wahrheit klar erweist!
Des Reinen Arm gib Heldenkraft,
des Falschen Stärke sei erschlafft!
So hilf uns, Gott, zu dieser Frist,
weil unsre Weisheit Einfalt ist!

ELSA UND LOHENGRIN

Du kündest nun dein wahr Gericht,
mein Gott und Herr, drum zag ich nicht!

FRIEDRICH

Ich geh in Treu vor dein Gericht!
Herr Gott, nun verlass mein Ehre nicht!

ORTRUD

Ich baue fest auf seine Kraft,
die, wo er kämpft, ihm Sieg verschafft!

ALLE MÄNNER

Des Reinen Arm gib Heldenkraft,
des Falshen Stärke sei erschlafft:
So künde nun dein wahr Gericht,
du Herr und Gott, nun zögre nicht!

ALLE FRAUEN

Mein Herr und Gott, segne ihn!

Wagner, Lohengrin, “My Lords and God”

THE KING
(proceeding to the middle
with great ceremony)

My Lords and God, I call upon you

(Everyone bares his head
in deepest reverence)
to be present at this fight!
Proclaim through the sword’s victory a verdict
that clearly shows what is deceit and what is truth!
May he who is innocent fight with the arm of a hero,
and may he who is false be sapped of strength!
So help us God in this hour,
for our wisdom is but foolhardy!

ELSA AND LOHENGRIN

You will now make known your true judgment,
my Lord and God, and therefore, I say nothing!

FRIEDRICH

I faithfully come before you to receive judgment!
Dear Lord, abandon not my honor!

ORTRUD

I rely on his strength,
wherever he fights, it brings him victory!

ALL THE MEN

Give to the innocent’s arm the hero’s strength,
and take away the strength from the liar:
Make known your true judgment,
O Lord our God, do not hesitate!

WOMEN
My Lord and God, give him your blessing!

Mozart, Die Zauberflöte, “O Isis und Osiris”

SARASTRO:
O Isis und Osiris, schenket
Der Weisheit Geist dem neuen Paar!
Die ihr der Wand’rer Schritte lenket,
Stärkt mit Geduld sie in Gefahr!

PRIESTER:
Stärkt mit Geduld sie in Gefahr!

SARASTRO:
Lasst sie der Prüfung Früchte sehen;
Doch sollten sie zu Grabe gehen,
So lohnt der Tugend kühnen Lauf,
Nehmt sie in euren Wohnsitz auf.

PRIESTER:
Nehmt sie in euren Wohnsitz auf!

Mozart, The Magic Flute, “O Isis and Osiris”

SARASTRO:
O Isis and Osiris, gift
The spirit of wisdom to the new pair!
You who guide the wanderer’s steps,
Strengthen them with patience when in danger!

PRIEST:
Stregnthen them with patience when in danger!

SARASTRO:
Let them see the fruits of their trial;
But should they head to their grave,
Then reward the virtue of their bold assay,
Take them into your abode.

PRIEST:
Take them into your abode!

The translations require a little explanation. This opera was originally composed in Russian. It has been translated into many languages. Frick is signing from an unknown (to me) German translation. I have found a German text that matches some of his words, but not all of them. The English is a separate translation from the Russian. If you read the English, you will have the gist of what he is saying, but the English and the German have nothing to do with one another.

Tchaikovskjy, Eugene Onegin, Prince Gremin’s Aria

GREMIN
(mit edler Würde)
Ein jeder kennt die Lieb’ auf Erden,
ein jeder muss ihr Sklave werden:
der Jugend ungebrochne Kraft,
des reifen Alters Leidenschaft.
Und wer an Liebe nicht mehr glaubt,
hat sich des schönsten Schmucks beraubt.
Onegin, dir kann ich’s vertrauen,
unsagbar liebe ich Tatjanen.
Gar trüb es um mein Leben stand,
da sah Tatjana ich und fand
gleich Sonnenstrahl nach Nebelwetter
in ihrem Wesen meinen Retter.
Inmitten junger und Betagter
und aufgeblasner Ziererei,
verwegner, schlauer und verzagter,
verhasster plumper Heuchelei,
inmitten lächerlicher Schwätzer,
frivoler, glaubensloser Ketzer
inmitten dummer Eitelkeit,
berechnend falscher Niedrigkeit,
inmitten feiler Bösewichter
und schnödem Spott, Verrat und Lug,
in einer Welt voll Hohn und Trug
und feigem, kriechendem Gelichtet,
da schimmert den Gestirnen gleich
Tatjanas Unschuld hell und heiter.
Sie macht mich glücklich, macht mich reich,
führt mich hinan die Himmelsleiter.

Tchaikovsky, Eugene Onegin, Prince Gremin’s Aria

PRINCE GREMIN
(With noble dignity)
Love is no respecter of age,
its transports bless alike
those in the bloom of youth
yet unacquainted with the world
and the grey?headed warrior
tempered by experience!
Onegin, I shan’t disguise the fact
that I love Tatyana to distraction!
My life was slipping drearily away;
she appeared and brightened it
like a ray of sunlight in a stormy sky,
and brought me life and youth, yes, youth and happiness!
Among these sly, poor?spirited,
foolish, pampered children,
these scoundrels both absurd and boring,
dull, fractious arbiters,
among the pious coquettes
and sycophantic slaves,
amid affable, modish hypocrisy
courteous, affectionate infidelities,
amid the icy censure
of cruel?hearted vanity,
amid the vexing vacuity
of calculation, thought and conversation,
she shines like a star
in the night’s darkest hour, in a pure, clear sky,
and to me she always appears
in the radiant,
radiant nimbus of an angel!

Love is no respecter of age, etc.

Gottlob Frick
July 28, 1906 – August 18, 1994

Gottlob Frick was born in Oelbronn, a village in Wurtemberg, where his father was head forester. The youngest of 13 children, he sang in the local church choir, but had no formal training at a musical academy. He was, however, a frequent visitor to the Stuttgart High School of Music, where Fritz Windgassen (father of the celebrated tenor Wolfgang Windgassen), was in charge of the opera class, which happened to have no bass pupils at the time. At the age of 21 Frick joined the chorus at the Stuttgart Opera; three years later, in 1930, he was auditioned by Siegfried Wagner, then in his final season as director of the Bayreuth Festival. The young bass was engaged to sing small parts. From 1931 to 1934, he studied privately in Stuttgart with Julius Neudorffer-Opitz, a heroic baritone who had had a successful career there.

Frick made his debut in 1934 at Coburg, singing Daland in Der fliegende Hollander. He moved to Freiburg-im-Breslau and then to Konigsberg, in East Prussia, where he was heard by Karl Bohm, at that time music director of the Dresden State Opera, who engaged him on the spot. Frick remained in Dresden for more than 10 years, from 1939 to 1950, learning and singing an enormous repertory. This included Sarastro, Osmin and the Commendatore; Caspar in Der Freischutz, one of his most effective roles; Gremin in Eugene Onegin and Pimen in Boris Godunov; King Philip in Verdi’s Don Carlos, which he always claimed as his favourite part, and the Father Superior in La forza del destino. He scored great successes as Falstaff in Nicolai’s Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor and in two comic roles in operas by Lortzing: Burgomaster Van Bett in Zar und Zimmermann and Baculus in Der Wildschutz.

At Dresden in 1942 Frick created Caliban in Die Zauberinsel, Heinrich Sutermeister’s operatic version of The Tempest, and he also sang the Peasant in Carl Orff’s Die Kluge. After the end of the Second World War, in 1950, Frick moved to the Stadtische Oper in West Berlin. Then in 1953 he became a member both of the Vienna State Opera and of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. He had already sung the Landgrave in Tannhauser at La Scala in 1950, and made his Covent Garden debut in 1951, singing Fafner, Hunding and Hagen in two cycles of The Ring. It was at this point that Wagner began to assume an important place in his career. He continued to sing other roles, both old and new; for instance, at Salzburg in 1955 he gave a superbly authoritative performance of Pope Pius IV in Hans Erich Pfitzner’s Palestrina and also took part in the world premiere of Werner Egk’s Irische Legende (based on WB Yeats’s play Countess Cathleen).

In 1957 Frick returned to Bayreuth, where he offered a warmhearted Pogner in Die Meistersinger, and to Covent Garden where for the next decade he sang nearly every season, as Fafner, Hunding and Hagen in The Ring, as Gurnemanz, Rocco and Daland. At Bayreuth from 1960 to 1964 he sang Fasolt, Hunding and Hagen, while in his only season at the Metropolitan, 1961-62, he sang Fafner (both in Rheingold and Siegfried), Hunding and Hagen in four cycles, giving 16 performances in less than six weeks, a real feat of endurance. His other Wagner roles included King Mark and King Henry the Fowler.

After a particularly tiring Ring cycle in Munich in January 1970, Frick announced his retirement from the opera house. He continued to sing in concert for some years, and made occasional operatic appearances in Stuttgart, Vienna or Munich. In 1971 he sang Gurnemanz at Covent Garden, replacing a sick colleague at short notice. The fabulous voice was still there, and the occasion was highly emotive for those in the audience who had first heard the bass on the same stage 20 years before. He recorded nearly all his Mozart and Wagner characterisations, some of them twice, while many of his other roles comic and serious, are also available on disc. Die Freischutz and Fidelio are particularly true to life.