Thomas Quasthoff

Last updated

Thomas Quasthoff
Thomas Quasthoff 2010.jpg
Quasthoff, 2010
Background information
Born1959 (age 6364)
Hildesheim, West Germany
Genres Opera
Occupation(s) Bass-baritone
Years active1988–present

Thomas Quasthoff (born 9 November 1959) is a German bass-baritone. Quasthoff has a range of musical interest from Bach cantatas, to lieder, and solo jazz improvisations. Born with severe birth defects caused by thalidomide, Quasthoff is 1.34 m (4 ft 4+34 in), and has phocomelia.


Early life and career

Quasthoff was born in Hildesheim with serious birth defects caused by his mother's exposure during pregnancy to the drug thalidomide, which was prescribed as an antiemetic to combat her morning sickness.

Quasthoff was denied admission to the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover, owing to his physical inability to play the piano, rather than a lack of skill required for entry to the conservatory. In the early stages of his education as a singer, Quasthoff was promoted by Sebastian Peschko. [1] Thus, he chose to study voice privately. He also studied law for three years. [2] Prior to his music career, he worked for six years as a radio announcer for NDR. He also did voice-over work for television. [3]

Music career

Quasthoff's music career was launched in 1988 when he won the ARD International Music Competition in Munich, earning praise from the baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. [4] His performance of lieder was appreciated for its detail, directness and his vocal range and colour. [5] In 1995, he made his American debut at the Oregon Bach Festival at the invitation of artistic director Helmuth Rilling; in 1998, he was one of the soloists for the festival's world premiere of Penderecki's Credo, the recording of which won a Grammy Award for best choral recording. In 2003, he made his staged operatic debut as Don Fernando in Beethoven's Fidelio at the Salzburg Festival, conducted by Simon Rattle. In 2004 he performed Amfortas in Parsifal with the Vienna State Opera. [5]

Quasthoff recorded for Deutsche Grammophon (DG). In addition to recordings of classical repertoire, [6] he released his first jazz album for DG in 2007, The Jazz Album: Watch What Happens , with Till Brönner, Alan Broadbent, Peter Erskine, Dieter Ilg, and Chuck Loeb. [7]

For the 2006/2007 concert season, Quasthoff was one of Carnegie Hall's "Perspectives" artists. [8] However, illness forced him to cancel his first two appearances in that capacity. [9]

As artist-in-residence at the Barbican Hall, [10] London, Quasthoff invited some of his favourite fellow artists in a series under the title Die Stimme (The Voice, also the name of his autobiography) which marked his 50th birthday. Quasthoff was a guest of BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs in February 2009. [11]

In January 2012, Quasthoff announced his retirement from public performance. He cited various reasons such as illness, the strains of touring, and the death of his brother Michael from lung cancer. [12]

He later returned to performance. This included appearing in concert in 2016, notably as the speaker in Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder . [13] He performed as Feste in the play Twelfth Night . [12] He also performed with his jazz quartet and with a spoken role in a semi-staged opera at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2021. [5]

Quasthoff is also a voice professor. He previously taught at the Hochschule für Musik Detmold, Germany. He is currently a professor at the Hanns Eisler School of Music in Berlin.

He led development of Das Lied, a biennial international song competition that started in 2009. [12] [14]


Quasthoff has received three Grammy awards during his career to 2021. He won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance in 2000, for his recording with Anne Sofie von Otter of Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn , along with the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Claudio Abbado. His recordings of the songs of Brahms, Liszt and Schubert accompanied by pianist Justus Zeyen were nominated for the Grammy in 2000 and 2001. He won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance for the second time in 2004. It was for Schubert: Lieder with Orchestra which Quasthoff performed with von Otter and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe conducted by Abbado. Quasthoff won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance for the third time in 2006 with Rainer Kussmaul, the Berlin Baroque Soloists and the RIAS Chamber Choir in their recording of J. S. Bach: Cantatas . In 2008, he was a soloist on the Grammy-winning recording of Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem (Simon Rattle, conductor; Simon Halsey, chorus master) on EMI Classics.

In 2005, Quasthoff received Germany's Great Cross of Merit.

In 2009, he was awarded the Herbert von Karajan Music Prize. That same year he was awarded the gold medal for outstanding musicianship by the Royal Philharmonic Society. [5]

Personal life

In 2006, Quasthoff married Claudia Stelzig, a German TV journalist.

In a 2003 interview, Quasthoff revealed that he is an active political thinker, is a socialist, and was opposed to the Iraq War. He also expressed regret that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict could not be resolved via compromise. [15]

Related Research Articles

The Berlin Philharmonic is a German orchestra based in Berlin. It is one of the most popular, acclaimed and well-respected orchestras in the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Claudio Abbado</span> Italian conductor (1933–2014)

Claudio Abbado was an Italian conductor who was one of the leading conductors of his generation. He served as music director of the La Scala opera house in Milan, principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, music director of the Vienna State Opera, founder and director of Lucerne Festival Orchestra, founder and director of Mahler Chamber Orchestra, founding Artistic Director of Orchestra Mozart and music director of European Union Youth Orchestra.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Evgeny Kissin</span> Russian classical pianist

Evgeny Igorevich Kissin is a Russian-born concert pianist and composer. He became a British citizen in 2002 and an Israeli citizen in 2013. He first came to international fame as a child prodigy. He has a wide repertoire and is especially known for his interpretations of the works of the Romantic era, particularly those of Franz Schubert, Frédéric Chopin, Robert Schumann, Franz Liszt, Johannes Brahms, Sergei Rachmaninoff, and Ludwig van Beethoven. He is commonly viewed as a great successor of the Russian piano school because of the depth, lyricism and poetic quality of his interpretations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau</span> German lyric baritone and conductor (1925–2012)

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau was a German lyric baritone and conductor of classical music, one of the most famous Lieder performers of the post-war period, best known as a singer of Franz Schubert's Lieder, particularly "Winterreise" of which his recordings with accompanists Gerald Moore and Jörg Demus are still critically acclaimed half a century after their release.

The Gramophone Classical Music Awards, launched in 1977, are one of the most significant honours bestowed on recordings in the classical record industry. They are often viewed as equivalent to or surpassing the American Grammy award, and referred to as the Oscars for classical music. They are widely regarded as the most influential and prestigious classical music awards in the world. According to Matthew Owen, national sales manager for Harmonia Mundi USA, "ultimately it is the classical award, especially worldwide."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anne Sofie von Otter</span> Swedish mezzo-soprano

Anne Sofie von Otter is a Swedish mezzo-soprano. Her repertoire encompasses lieder, operas, oratorios and also rock and pop songs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Peter Schreier</span> German tenor and conductor (1935–2019)

Peter Schreier was a German tenor in opera, concert and lied, and a conductor. He was regarded as one of the leading lyric tenors of the 20th century.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Murray Perahia</span> Musical artist

Murray David Perahia is an American pianist and conductor. He is widely considered one of the greatest living pianists. He was the first North American pianist to win the Leeds International Piano Competition, in 1972. Known as a leading interpreter of Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schumann, among other composers, Perahia has won numerous awards, including three Grammy Awards from a total of 18 nominations, and 9 Gramophone Awards in addition to its first and only "Piano Award".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ian Bostridge</span> English tenor

Ian Charles Bostridge CBE is an English tenor, well known for his performances as an opera and lieder singer.

Nelson José Pinto Freire was a Brazilian classical pianist. Regarded as one of the greatest pianists of his generation, he was noted for his "decorous piano playing" and "interpretive depth". His extensive discography for labels such as Sony Classical, Teldec, Philips, and Decca has garnered awards including the Gramophone Award and Diapason d'Or. Freire appeared as soloist with the world's most prestigious orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. He played and recorded piano duo music with Martha Argerich, a long-time musical and personal friend.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chamber Orchestra of Europe</span> London-based orchestra

The Chamber Orchestra of Europe (COE), established in 1981, is an orchestra based in London. The orchestra comprises about 60 members from across Europe. The players pursue parallel careers as international soloists, members of chamber groups and as tutors and teachers of music. The orchestra receives substantial support from the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the Underwood Trust; they have no single home resident hall and no appointed resident conductor. The orchestra is a registered charity under English law.

The Arnold Schoenberg Choir is a Viennese/Austrian choir which was founded 1972 by Erwin Ortner, who is still its artistic director. The choir has a high reputation both among conductors and among critics and the musical scene in general. All members of the choir have broad experience and expertise in vocal music; most of them have graduated from or are currently studying at the Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts. The choir is named after Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg.

Dorothea Röschmann is a German soprano. She is famous for her performances in operas by Mozart as well as Lieder.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sebastian Peschko</span>

Sebastian Peschko was a German classical pianist, specialized in the art form of lieder. He was accompanist to some of the foremost lyrical singers of the 20th century.

Klaus Mertens is a German bass and bass-baritone singer who is known especially for his interpretation of the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach for bass voice.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Max van Egmond</span>

Max van Egmond is a Dutch bass and baritone singer. He has focused on oratorio and Lied and is known for singing works of Johann Sebastian Bach. He was one of the pioneers of historically informed performance of Baroque and Renaissance music.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nathan Berg</span> Canadian opera singer

Nathan Berg is an operatic bass-baritone. He is a Grammy Award winner, and four-time Grammy nominated, a Juno award winner and 2014 Juno Awards nominee

<i>The Jazz Album: Watch What Happens</i> 2007 studio album by Thomas Quasthoff

The Jazz Album: Watch What Happens is a 2006 studio album by the German baritone Thomas Quasthoff. The album was arranged by Alan Broadbent, Steve Gray, and Nan Schwartz.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Benjamin Appl</span> German-British baritone

Benjamin Appl is a German-British lyric baritone, a classical singer who has appeared world-wide in opera houses and concert halls, particularly known as a Lieder singer.

Rainer Trost is a German tenor whose performance repertoire encompasses operas, operettas, Lieder and oratorios. He is known for roles in Mozart operas. He is also a voice teacher at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna.


  1. Michael Quasthoff: Thomas Quasthoff – Der Bariton, Henschel Verlag, Berlin, 2006, pp. 46–47, ISBN   978-3-89487-545-9.
  2. Stephen Moss (20 October 2000). "'I'm lucky. Everyone can see my disability'". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 March 2007.
  3. Peter Conrad (7 April 2002). "More, much more than this..." The Observer . Retrieved 23 March 2007.
  4. "ARD-musikwettbewerb: Gesang". 28 November 2019. Retrieved 28 March 2021.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Thomas Quasthoff: 'From birth, my mum felt guilty. I had to show her I made the best of my life'". the Guardian. 17 August 2021. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  6. Tim Ashley (2 August 2001). "This mortal coil". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  7. John Lewis (3 October 2007). "'This isn't a novelty record'". The Guardian . Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  8. Jay Nordlinger (9 March 2007). "Scatting & Growling His Way Through". The New York Sun . Retrieved 14 March 2007.
  9. Allan Kozinn (7 March 2007). "Put Me Out There, Coach. I'm Ready to Sing". The New York Times . Retrieved 14 March 2007.
  10. Thomas Quasthoff (9 January 2009). "Long live Papa Haydn!". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  11. "Desert Island Discs – Thomas Quasthoff". Desert Island Discs. BBC Online. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  12. 1 2 3 Fiona Maddocks (28 September 2014). "Thomas Quasthoff: 'Schubert's songs fly through the sky like angels'". The Observer. Retrieved 25 December 2014.
  13. "Runnicles bids farewell to BBCSSO with a colossal Gurrelieder at the Edinburgh Festival". Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  14. "Das Lied". Das Lied International Song Competition. 3 February 2017. Retrieved 17 August 2021.
  15. Maddocks, Fiona (25 February 2005). "Thomas Quasthoff Speaks Very Frankly". Archived from the original on 5 March 2005. Retrieved 10 November 2013.