This time last year I was preparing to head up to Salzburg for the annual Mozartwoche for a few days of concerts, bazaartost, Salzburger Knockerl and the warm hospitality of the Hotel Bristol. Amongst the musical highlights was a concert by the German bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff in a concert of Hayden arias and songs. It was an opportunity to hear one of the greats in a little known repertoire in the intimate setting of the lovely Mozarteum. An added thrill was having him come into a restaurant we were lunching at and ask if he could sit at a communal table.
Quasthoff’s story is a fairly well-known on in musical circles – how he overcame great physical challenges to become one of the most respected and loved artists of the past few decades. Known for his sensitive and nuanced singing in recital, he branched out into opera and jazz and proved that the subtlety he brought to the concert stage translated into so many forms.
Today at the age of 52 he announced his retirement due to health reasons. As my friend Opera Chic says his “…. statement to the press demonstrates why he’s treasured for his elegance and professionalism.”
“After almost 40 years, I have decided to retire from concert life. My health no longer allows me to live up to the high standard that I have always set for my art and myself. I owe a lot to this wonderful profession and leave without a trace of bitterness. On the contrary, I am looking forward to the new challenges that will now enter my life. I would like to thank all my fellow musicians and colleagues, with whom I stood together on stage, all the organizers, and my audience for their loyalty.”
One of my favorite Quasthoff recordings is this aria by Mozart written in 1791 for the bass Franz Gerl and double bass player Friedrich Pichelberger. It has been rumoured that Pichelberger had made advances toward his wife Constanza and Mozart composed the extremely difficult bass obbligato of Per questa bella mana as revenge. Whatever the reason he may have had for composing it, here Quasthoff sings it will his trademark elegance and the young bass player Christoph Anacker dispatches his part with elan.
And here is Quasthoff displaying his abilities as a jazz artist with Have A Little Faith in Me from one of his crossover albums.
Though he may be retiring from performing life he will continue teaching at the Hanns Eisler Academy in Berlin and continue to hold his international master classes. In 2009 he launched “Das Lied” an international song competition and has a new talk show series at the Berlin Konzerthaus.
One can only say thank you to him for so much wonderful music and wish him happiness and health. We may not hear the music of his voice but his voice will still be heard in the world of music.
11 January – 1566 The First Official Government Lottery has held in England.