Thomas Quasthoff

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Thomas Quasthoff, 2010 Thomas Quasthoff 2010.jpg
Thomas Quasthoff, 2010

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.

A bass-baritone is a high-lying bass or low-lying "classical" baritone voice type which shares certain qualities with the true baritone voice. The term arose in the late 19th century to describe the particular type of voice required to sing three Wagnerian roles: the Dutchman in Der fliegende Holländer, Wotan/Der Wanderer in the Ring Cycle and Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Wagner labelled these roles as Hoher Bass —see fach for more details.

Bach cantata cantata by Johann Sebastian Bach

The cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach consist of at least 209 surviving works.

Lied musical form

The lied is a term in the German vernacular to describe setting poetry to classical music to create a piece of polyphonic music. The term is used for songs from the late fourteenth or early fifteenth centuries or even to refer to Minnesang from as early as the 12th and 13th centuries. It later came especially to refer to settings of Romantic poetry during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and into the early twentieth century. Examples include settings by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf or Richard Strauss. Among English speakers, however, "lied" is often used interchangeably with "art song" to encompass works that the tradition has inspired in other languages. The poems that have been made into lieder often center on pastoral themes or themes of romantic love.


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.

Hildesheim Place in Lower Saxony, Germany

Hildesheim[ˈhɪldəsˌhaɪ̯m](listen) is a city in Lower Saxony, Germany with 104,230 inhabitants. It is in the district of Hildesheim, about 30 km (19 mi) southeast of Hanover on the banks of the Innerste River, a small tributary of the Leine River.

Birth defect condition present at birth regardless of cause; human disease or disorder developed prior to birth

A birth defect, also known as a congenital disorder, is a condition present at birth regardless of its cause. Birth defects may result in disabilities that may be physical, intellectual, or developmental. The disabilities can range from mild to severe. Birth defects are divided into two main types: structural disorders in which there are problems with the shape of a body part and functional disorders in which there are problems with how a body part works. Functional disorders include metabolic and degenerative disorders. Some birth defects include both structural and functional disorders.

An antiemetic is a drug that is effective against vomiting and nausea. Antiemetics are typically used to treat motion sickness and the side effects of opioid analgesics, general anaesthetics, and chemotherapy directed against cancer. They may be used for severe cases of gastroenteritis, especially if the patient is dehydrated.

Quasthoff was denied admission to the music conservatory in Hanover, 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 six years as a radio announcer for NDR. He also did voice-over work for television. [3]

Music school Institution specializing in music education

A music school is an educational institution specialized in the study, training, and research of music. Such an institution can also be known as a school of music, music academy, music faculty, college of music, music department, conservatory or conservatoire. Instruction consists of training in the performance of musical instruments, singing, musical composition, conducting, musicianship, as well as academic and research fields such as musicology, music history and music theory.

Hanover City in Lower Saxony, Germany

Hanover or Hannover is the capital and largest city of the German state of Lower Saxony. Its 535,061 (2017) inhabitants make it the thirteenth-largest city of Germany, as well as the third-largest city of Northern Germany after Hamburg and Bremen. The city lies at the confluence of the River Leine and its tributary Ihme, in the south of the North German Plain, and is the largest city of the Hannover–Braunschweig–Göttingen–Wolfsburg Metropolitan Region. It is the fifth-largest city in the Low German dialect area after Hamburg, Dortmund, Essen, and Bremen.

Sebastian Peschko German classical pianist, accompanist

Sebastian Peschko was a German classical pianist specialised in the art form of lieder and as such was accompanist to some of the foremost lyrical singers of the 20th century.

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.[ citation needed ] 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 Bach Festival's world premiere of Krzysztof 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.

The ARD International Music Competition is the largest international classical music competition in Germany. It is held once a year in Munich.

A baritone is a type of classical male singing voice whose vocal range lies between the bass and the tenor voice types. Originally from the Greek βαρύτονος (barýtonos), meaning heavy sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C (i.e. F2–F4) in choral music, and from the second G below middle C to the G above middle C (G2 to G4) in operatic music, but can be extended at either end. The baritone voice type is generally divided into the baryton-Martin baritone (light baritone), lyric baritone, Kavalierbariton, Verdi baritone, dramatic baritone, baryton-noble baritone, and the bass-baritone.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau German lyric baritone and conductor

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 accompanist Gerald Moore and Jörg Demus are still critically acclaimed half a century after their release.

Quasthoff recorded for Deutsche Grammophon (DG). In addition to recordings of classical repertoire, [4] he released his first jazz album for DG, The Jazz Album: Watch What Happens , with Till Brönner, Alan Broadbent, Peter Erskine, Dieter Ilg, and Chuck Loeb. [5]

Deutsche Grammophon record label

Deutsche Grammophon (DGG) is a German classical music record label that was the precursor of the corporation PolyGram. Headquartered in Berlin Friedrichshain, it is now part of Universal Music Group (UMG) since its merger with the UMG family of labels in 1999. It is the oldest surviving established record company.

<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.

Till Brönner German jazz musician

Till Brönner is a jazz musician, trumpeter, singer, composer, producer and photographer.

For the 2006/2007 concert season, Quasthoff was one of Carnegie Hall's "Perspectives" artists. [6] However, illness forced him to cancel his first two appearances in that capacity. [7]

Carnegie Hall concert hall in New York City

Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east side of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park.

As artist-in-residence at the Barbican Hall, [8] 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. [9]

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. [10]

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 has continued to appear in concert, notably as the speaker in Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder . [11]


Quasthoff 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. 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 .

Quasthoff's recordings of the songs of Brahms, Liszt and Schubert accompanied by pianist Justus Zeyen  [ de ] were nominated for the Grammy in 2000 and 2001.

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.

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. [12]

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  1. Michael Quasthoff: Thomas Quasthoff – Der Bariton, Henschel Verlag, Berlin, 2006, pp. 46–47, ISBN   978-3-89487-545-9.
  2. Stephen Moss (2000-10-20). "'I'm lucky. Everyone can see my disability'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-03-23.
  3. Peter Conrad (2002-04-07). "More, much more than this..." The Observer . Retrieved 2007-03-23.
  4. Tim Ashley (2001-08-02). "This mortal coil". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-12-25.
  5. John Lewis (2007-10-03). "'This isn't a novelty record'". The Guardian . Retrieved 2014-12-25.
  6. Jay Nordlinger (2007-03-09). "Scatting & Growling His Way Through". The New York Sun . Retrieved 2007-03-14.
  7. Allan Kozinn (2007-03-07). "Put Me Out There, Coach. I'm Ready to Sing". The New York Times . Retrieved 2007-03-14.
  8. Thomas Quasthoff (2009-01-09). "Long live Papa Haydn!". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-12-25.
  9. "Desert Island Discs – Thomas Quasthoff". Desert Island Discs. BBC Online. Retrieved 25 October 2014.
  10. Fiona Maddocks (2014-09-28). "Thomas Quasthoff: 'Schubert's songs fly through the sky like angels'". The Observer. Retrieved 2014-12-25.
  11. "Runnicles bids farewell to BBCSSO with a colossal Gurrelieder at the Edinburgh Festival". Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  12. Maddocks, Fiona (February 25, 2005). "Thomas Quasthoff Speaks Very Frankly". Archived from the original on March 5, 2005. Retrieved November 10, 2013.