Anna Reynolds from England was along with Julia Hamari (born in Budapest) Karl Richter’s most important contralto in the seventies.
The first time I met Karl Richter was in Vienna in 1970. I’d had a concert there with Josef Krips. After the concert Karl Richter who I did not know at all, came to my dressing room and said: “I’m Richter, that was very good” and then went off again. I hadn’t said one single word. Many years later I asked him, why he had come to the concert and he answered, “Certainly not to listen to Krips”!
The first concert I sang with him was in June 1971. A Cantata evening at the Bach Festival in Munich and it was 'Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot'. For me it was wonderful, I had never worked with anyone like him before. Of all the things I did it for him, above all, it was working together with him, that I particularly enjoyed the most. He never needed to say much, hardly made a gesture; just a small movement of his hand, and one understood him implicitly. There was a “rapport”, an alliance between us. I loved to sing and I always sang with him if I could. It hardly ever happened, that I could not come when he asked me to, thank God, otherwise he maybe would not have engaged me again.
Karl Richter, Elisabeth Speiser and Anna Reynolds (right)
In July 1970 the Archive Production of the Deutsche Grammophon Company decided to lunch a large Cantata cycle project with altogether 75 Bach Cantatas, in which earlier recordings would be integrated. A cantata for each Sunday of the church year, Edith Mathis sang soprano in all the new productions, Julia Hamari or Anna Reynolds Contralto, the Tenor was always Peter Schreier, and Dieter Fischer-Dieskau sang Baritone.
We made the recordings I think in September. I had a lot of performances there and in some years 15 performances in one month. It was always smaller pieces: no big ones, but I can remember very well, that every morning, when I had to sing Wagner in the afternoon, I practiced Bach for the Grammophon records later on. And that was a very good preparation for Wagner.
I love one of these Cantatas dearly, with the Aria 'Wie furchtsam wankten meine Schritte'. And the way I had sung it, I suddenly thought oh my goodness, I won’t be able to sing like that now. Richter had adopted an unbelievably slow tempo, I had to take breath in until, I thought my lungs must burst. But I did it staring at him the whole time, I had to sing off by heart, otherwise it would have been absolutely impossible. Then everyone looked at me, and the Orchestra started to applaud. I went up into the studio rooms, my arms stretched out away from me; I’d really expanded my lungs with this slow tempo.
Suddenly Richter appeared behind me and said: “It was pretty slow, wasn’t it?” I turned around and asked: “Isn’t that what you wanted?” “Of course not! Now you’ll get the right Tempo and everything will be fine.”
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Karl Richter and Kurt Guntner checking the recordings