I’m not as close to the nucleus of the opera world as I used to be, but I still can’t believe that I missed notice of the death of Hans Hotter, the regal German bass-baritone, at age 95. John Rockwell has a marvelous retrospective of his storied career in the New York Times.
Besides the standard-setting Solti Ring, in which he played Wotan (minus Rheingold, in which George London took over), I think that Hotter’s best legacy is in his multitude of lieder albums. His Winterreise is the most heartbreaking and chilling (no pun intended) performance of that somber cycle ever committed to disc, surpassing even Fischer-Dieskau and Ludwig’s magnificent recordings. His multiple albums of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Wolf, Strauss and Loewe are all surpassingly good. Even a simple song like Brahms’ “Sonntag”, sung by that rich deep voice, have a power and majesty that rarely comes across on recordings.
A wise man once said to me, “If James Earl Jones were an opera singer, he’d sound like Hans Hotter.” He was right.