In the Spring of 1957 the Munich Bach-Choir and the Munich Bach-Orchestra went on their first trip abroad to Italy. Bach’s Matthew Passion was performed in Palermo, Venice, Trieste, Florence and Rome. Fritz Wunderlich was amongst the vocal soloists on this tour.
"The first time Fritz Wunderlich came to Karl Richter. He was a very young singer, engaged in Stuttgart and naturally very proud of his voice, He always wanted to show it off. For example he once told us: “ I got up this morning at 8 o’clock and wanted to sing a high C, but I didn’t have one to sing.” We answered: “ Are you crazy? What do you want to sing a high C for at 8, in the morning nobody normally has a voice at that hour never mind a high C”."
Fritz Wunderlich and Karl Richter in 1957
Four times within 15 months the destination of Concert tours was again Italy. In December with Bach’s Matthew Passion; in Bologna, in the following Spring with an 'a capella' Motetten Program in Palermo, Florence, L’Aquila, Rome, Milan and Trieste.
"We traveled in a Touropa train as was usual in those days. At night we had our beds and during the day a sort of Ironing board would be pushed into the middle so that we had somewhere to eat from. In this way we traveled as far as Palermo in Sicily: in Messina the train was taken onto the ship for the crossing. We had lovely Concerts and a lot of success; the Italians found our work and our achievements really great."
In December in Genoa, Bach’s Mass in h-minor was on the Program and finally on March 24, 1959 Bach’s Matthew Passion at the Festival Arturo Toscanini in Parma .The soloists were Ursula Buckel, Hertha Toepper, Ernst Haefliger, Manfred Cordes and Kieth Engen.
The climax of the year 1958 was the recording of Bach’s Matthew Passion for the Archive Production of the German Grammophon Company, for which Guenther Ramin was supposed to have been the Conductor.
"I had begun the Matthew Passion with him for the German Grammophon Company; only one week later he was dead."
"I had been asked with whom it should be made; and I said “with Richter”, for me the immediate choice. Richter possessed the strength needed. When he was involved, he never faltered or produced something forced or artificial. When one listens to the first Grammophon recording you can hear this. How austere it was basically, the Choir as well, you can hear it."
Disk recording Matthew Passion
"Karl Richter had taken over the Matthew Passion and naturally had begun again from the very beginning. I have experienced him at Grammophon recordings, very rigorous, but very assured. We had all had a lot to do with one another; I knew his “Tempi ”and everything went along wonderfully."
Ernst Haefliger sang the part of the Evangelist, Kieth Engen that of Jesus, other vocal soloists were Irmgard Seefried, Antonia Fahberg, Hertha Toepper, Dietrich Fischer Dieskau and Max Proebstl.
"The recordings took place in the Hercules Hall, but not until after the evening Concerts were over. That meant the rehearsals and recordings never started until eleven o’clock at night. The collaboration with the soloists and the Orchestra was wonderful; afterwards we went into the rooms behind the hall to listen to what had been recorded so as to get an idea of how it had sounded."
Otto Buechner an the Munich Bach-Orchestra
"The first recordings in Munich with the English Horns had not functioned very well. A call came to the, Festival hall where Richter said: “It’s not working out properly with the English horns, can’t you do something together with Edgar Schann?” I said: “ I don’t know, send Edgar to me in Bayreuth, then we can try and see what we can do”. Edgar Schann came, we tried it out. We got together and played all the English-Horn pieces together and it turned out very well."
"The contralto aria was recorded at half-past two in the morning. Nobody knew about this of course and the difficulties we had were not considered interesting."
Hertha Toepper, Antonia Fahberg and Max Proebstl