Lebendige Vergangenheit - Josef Greindl

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Lebendige Vergangenheit

Born in Munich on 23 December 1912, the young Greindl first showed musical interests of a very different kind: he wanted to become a violin virtuoso. Only after eight years of intensive study - and after hearing Paul Bender as Caspar in Der Freischütz - did he change his professional plans. Bender also became Greindl's voice teacher, while the legendary Anna Bahr-Mildenburg provided his dramatic training. Greindl began his opera career as King Philip while still a student. He was 21 years old when he sang his first complete opera role in the spring of 1934 at Munich's Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz. In 1936 he was engaged to sing at the Stadttheater in Krefeld and debuted there as Hunding in Wagner's Walküre. In 1938 he went to Düsseldorf, and while there he made his first foreign guest appearance in 1939 in an illustrious ensemble of heavy Wagnerian voices, singing Hunding in Walküre in Amsterdam, Den Haag and Rotterdam. The cast, which was brilliant even for that time, included Erna Schlüter, Lotte Wollbrandt, Elisabeth Hängen, Bernd Aldenhoff and Asger Stig. Meanwhile, the important opera stages of the German-speaking world had become aware of the young hass. At the Munich Opera Festival in 1939, Greindl sang King Henry in Lohengrin. In 1940 he made a guest appearance at the Staatsoper in Vienna. In 1941 he was engaged by Heinz Tietjen to sing at the Staatsoper in Berlin. His great role model at that time, Josef von Manowarda, designated his young colleague to be his successor in an almost eerie manner: Manowarda died on 23 December 1942, Greindl's 30th birthday. Greindl's engagement at the Berlin Staatsoper was the beginning of his world-wide stage career. In 1943 he sang for the first time in Bayreuth, where he remained a member of the star ensemble until 1969. Wilhelm Furtwängler was responsible for Greindl's appearance in Salzburg in 1949. In 1950 Greindl debuted at Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, in 1951 at La Scala in Milan, and in 1952 at the Metropolitan Opera. He had been known in ltaly since 1942: as the youngest member of the ensemble, he had sung King Mark in Tristan und Isolde with Margarete Bäumer, Res Fischer, Julius Pölzer and Walther Grossmann. Josef Greindl sang at all of the world's important opera houses and under all of the great conductors, some of whom even overcame feelings of antipathy in order to gain the services of this convincing stage performer. More than 15 years after Furtwängler's death, Herbert von Karajan forgave Greindl for having been the hass preferred by his great but hated conducting colleague: in 1970 Greindl sang the role of Hagen at the Salzburg Easter Festival. For Furtwängler, Greindl was the incarnation of a singeractor, and the conductor also had unlimited faith in him as a human being. When the great maestro conducted his first postwar opera in Berlin in 1947, he was dismayed that Greindl was not allowed to sing King Mark in the Staatsoper's Tristan: ,,conscientious" colleagues had seen to it that Greindl was temporarily barred from practising his profession. When Furtwängler leamed that Greindl could again perform in public, he phoned him from Salzburg to ask: ,,Greindl, can you still sing?" When Greindl said yes, Furtwängler hired him for the 1949 Festival. When Furtwängler conducted his final Berlin performance of Tristan in December 1950, Greindl sang King Mark and also sang that role in the recordings that Furtwängler conducted in London in June 1952. In Rome Greindl sang the role of Hagen, and at Milan's La Scala he was Gurnemanz and Pogner under Furtwängler's baton. Not one of Greindl's successors came even close to matching his intense and convincing representational power. His ability to sing with subtle vocal nuance also made him a virtuoso concert bass. But his true significance was certainly in the field of music drama: anyone who heard him sing Gurnemanz, Hagen or Hans Sachs, heard his lament over the desecration of the Holy Grail, his powerful and cynical summoning of the men or his soliloquy on the world's follies will have difficulty accepting the detached and smooth interpretations of today's underweight Wagnerian performers.