Thomas Quasthoff, one of the world's greatest bass-baritones, recently confirmed his retirement from the world's concert stage after nearly 40 years (read about it here in an article by Norman Lebrecht).
Norman Lebrecht has said of Quasthoff, "He can shrink a 3,000-seat hall into the palm of his hand. His deep bass-baritone voice has a velvet quality that lends comfort to the mortal agonies he evokes in song. Visually, the striking thing about him is that he's just 4-foot tall with very short arms, the legacy of a drug called Thalidomide his mother was prescribed during pregnancy."
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau described Quasthoff as the "greatest male lieder singer of our time". Yes, but he is also much more than that. He is an examplar of what it means to follow ones dreams, no matter the obstacle, be persistent, and hold on to hope. I've read he doesn't like to be associated with terms like hero, role model or paladin, but that's what he is for me.
I had the honor to be on stage with Thomas Quasthoff in Boston Symphony Hall many times (he as a soloist, and I, as a choral member in the Tanglewood Festival Chorus). I recall an after-performance party with him at Boston Symphony Hall. We had just closed our many performances of Britten's "War Requiem" and were celebrating. That very same evening he was also being awarded the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance (the year 2000). Someone obviously had to accept the award on his behalf . . . because he was with us (he loves the "War Requiem"). So, we gave him flowers. I suppose he got the best of both worlds that evening, the Grammy Award, and the unforgettable experience of singing Britten's "War Requiem" with Seiji Ozawa conducting. It was
This sad news of his retirement from the stage has affected me deeply and given me pause to reflect on Quasthoff's influence on the whole human family. Everyone should watch this movie ("The Dreamer") about his life, or read this book about his life ("The Voice"). I've been reading it and highly recommend it.
Undaunted by his retirement from the stage, he will remain very active in the music world as he continues "to devote himself intensively to the next generation of singers by teaching, as before, at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin, as well as at international master classes" [Official press release].
He will also continue hosting his talk show series “Thomas Quasthoffs Nachtgespräche” (Night Talk). "Here he shows a different side of himself. Since December of 2011, the artist has been welcoming prominent guests from the cultural arena, politics, and high society to the Berlin Konzerthaus. At his next “night talk” meeting (on February 22, 2012), Mr. Quasthoff will speak with actress and director Katharina Thalbach about important phases in her life and the music that influenced her." [Official press release]
I feel that Quasthoff has posessed on stage the rare ability to help listeners experience profound emotion when hearing him sing—emotions that couldn't surface, or had not yet surfaced, any other way, or emotions they didn’t know they could feel. He has become the embodiement of the songs he has sung. He has helped people to feel connected to the meaning of a song/poem, or even to the composer themself, and he has inspired countless people to follow their dreams and be true to what they have been given in life.
Here is a special audio interview with Quasthoff where Norman Lebrecht speaks with him about "love, death, disability, relationships, hope and equinamity".
"The Dreamer" movie trailer about Thomas Quasthoff's life, important career steps, and his dream to be an Opera singer on stage.
Schumann, 'Dichterliebe'. Verbier Festival 2007.
At the Jazz Festival Vienna (Wiener Staatsoper, 1 July 2008). There are over 250 Youtube videos of Quasthoff. This is one of his top 3 Youtube videos.