In the years between the prime of Ludwig Weber and the emergence of Kurt Moll, Gottlob Frick reigned as the leading bass in the Austro-German repertory, wielding a powerful, compact black bass of unchallenged cutting power. A quick and steady vibrato set his voice apart from other bass instruments, which were softer in timbre, offering lumbering oscillations in place of spin. Sir Thomas Beecham, having long delayed recording his enchanting interpretation of Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail, found in Frick a deep bass capable of executing Osmin's runs cleanly and managing handily the requisite trills. Frick's recorded interpretations made his name a familiar one throughout the world, even though he confined most of his work to Europe. During the decade from the early '50s onward, Frick was a peripatetic visitor to the recording studio, preserving some roles on multiple sets.
After studies at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart, Frick joined the Stuttgart Staatstheater as a member of the chorus from 1927 to 1931. In 1934, he was engaged by Coburg, making his debut as Daland in Wagner's Fliegende Holländer. Following contracts with Freiburg and Königsberg, Frick became a member of the Dresden Staatsoper in 1938, remaining with that company until 1952 and steadily advancing through the Wagnerian bass roles and other specialties, such as Falstaff in Nicolai's Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor and Prince Gremin. In 1942, he created the role of Caliban in Heinrich Sutermeister's ill-fated Die Zauberinsel and, two years later, the Carpenter in Die Hochzeit des Jobs by Joseph Haas. In Dresden, Frick remained outside the centers of international activity found elsewhere in post-WWII Europe; it was not until he joined the Berlin Stadtische Oper in 1950 that his work began to attract widespread attention. In 1953, when he was engaged at both Munich and Vienna, he was already 46, but in prime voice. Covent Garden heard him for the first time in 1951, when his Hunding, Fafner, and Hagen were hailed as "somber and magnificent-voiced." London's determination to grow a home-theater crop of singers limited further appearances in the short term, but Frick was to return between 1957 and 1967 and again in 1971, even after his official retirement, to sing a memorable Gurnemanz.
Scheduling and contract difficulties kept Frick from the Metropolitan Opera until 1961. In his solitary season there, he appeared first as Fafner in Das Rheingold, then sang Hunding, the Siegfried Fafner, and Hagen. Meanwhile, he had made his Salzburg debut in 1955 (as Sarastro and in the premiere of Werner Egk's Irische Legende) and had appeared at Bayreuth as Pogner in 1957, returning there for Ring performances from 1960 to 1964. Officially, Frick retired from the stage in 1970, but he continued to undertake occasional guest appearances in Vienna and Munich (aside from his 1971 London Gurnemanz). To celebrate his 70th birthday, Stuttgart mounted Die Lustigen Weiber for him in 1976. Frick's recorded legacy is substantial enough to assure his continuing reputation. In addition to Osmin and Rocco, his Commendatore in Giulini's Don Giovanni, his Hunding, and Hagen in the Solti Ring were all captured in good form and sound. His Sarastro for Klemperer and Keèal for Kempe find him in rougher voice, although his Gurnemanz for Solti, recorded when he was 66, is a remarkable performance.