Walther Ludwig, Tenor (1902-1983)
Wofgang Amadeus Mozart DIE ENTFÜHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL
Hier soll ich dich denn sehen! (recorded 1946)
Otto Nicolai DIE LUSTIGEN WEIBER VON WINDSOR
Horch die Lerche singt im Hain (recorded 1943)
Albert Lortzing ZAR UND ZIMMERMANN
Lebe wohl, mein flandrisch Mädchen (recorded 1952)
with Ellinor Junker-Giesen, Soprano (1912-2007, wife of accompanist Hubert Giesen)
My personal opinion: For many listeners, the tenorvoice is the most attractive one and something very special. Wagnerian hero Max Lorenz already knew, that "Tenor is not a voice category, but a belief!" And for Hector Berlioz, the tenor was "a creature not of this world!" Some love the metal in the voice of a dramatic tenor, others prefer the more quiet and silken sound of a lyric tenor. But it may happen, that some lyric tenors have little male expression if the voice is thin and almost without 'vibrato'. As an example you could name the german tenors Peter Schreier and Heinz Hoppe (1924-1993) or the Dutch John van Kesteren (1921-2008). Rudolf Schock (1915-1986) appeared unmanly when he used his weird 'falsetto' in some late painful operetta recordings. Even the great Nicolai Gedda was not to everyone's taste, when he showed the art of his unique 'voix mixte' and oversweet 'mezza-voce'.
Refreshing and more natural was the lyric voice of the german tenor Walther Ludwig, who sang Mozart's boyish heroes Tamino and Belmonte with robust attack and attractive virility. Ludwig (no relation to Christa Ludwig) was one of the finest german tenors in the post-war era, but strangely he seems to be almost forgotten. It might be, that he was outshined by the fame of Peter Anders (1908-1954), who possessed a more friendly timbre (and look) than Ludwig. It's needless, to speculate who was the better singer.
Walther Ludwig was born in 1902 in Bad Oeynhausen. The career as a singer came late: First he studied law and medicine at various universities, then he turned to singing in Königsberg, East Prussia. After a successful debut, he gave up medicine and began his fine career as a singer. His first engagement (1931) was a two-year contract in Schwerin, where he created the title role in Graener's forgotten (and uninteresting) opera FRIEDEMANN BACH. After Schwerin, Ludwig became the first lyric tenor at the 'Städtische Oper Berlin', where he was soon admired as a great Mozartean - a reputation he also demonstrated in Glyndebourne. After Berlin he sang for two seasons in Hamburg, then he found a new artistic home in Austria, mainly at the 'Vienna State Opera' and at the 'Salzburg Festival' (Belmonte, Tamino, Ottavio, Idomeneo, Ferrando and the tenor solo in Beethoven's 9th Symphony). He toured South America and made many guest appearances in Milan, Paris, London and Barcelona. In Vienna he was very successful in 69 performances, and it speaks for itself that Anton Dermota mentioned his former rival with not a single word in his memoires. After his retirement from stage in 1962, Walther Ludwig completed his medical studies and became a physician, working as a doctor in South Germany.
The recordings he left us, show us a voice, that can't deny the german origin - not even (and especially not) in the italian repertoire. Remarkable his performances in two light 'opera plays' ('Spieloper'): Nicolai's DIE LUSTIGEN WEIBER VON WINDSOR (the first complete recording) and Lortzing's ZAR UND ZIMMERMANN (1952 under Ferdinand Leitner with the great Gustav Neidlinger as Van Bett). Ludwig sings Fenton's romance unaffected and straight, and the farewell-song of the Marquis ('Lebe wohl, mein flandrisch Mädchen') without overdone sentiment. The absence of these expressive gestures make the interpretations all the more pleasant. The recordings have aged much less than the versions of Rudolf Schock, who far to often was tearfully sentimental. Ludwig's recordings of some scenes from italian operas (the love-duet from BUTTERFLY with Maria Cebotari or Alfredo's 'De' miei bollenti spiriti' ) sound like Italian opera in Germany at that time sounded generally: Teutonic!
But minor limitations can't conceal the fact, that Walther Ludwig was one of the most interesting german tenors - an unpretentious voice we should rediscover.