Thomas Quasthoff (born November 9, 1959) is a German bass-baritone. Although his reputation was initially based on his performance of Romantic lieder, Quasthoff has a range from the Baroque cantatas of Bach to solo jazz improvisations. Born with severe birth defects, Quasthoff is only 1.34 m tall (4' 4¾"), and has phocomelia.
Early life and career
Quasthoff was born in Hildesheim, West Germany, 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 is 1.34 m (4' 4¾") tall due to shortening of the long bones in his legs, and he has phocomelia of the upper extremities with very short or absent long bones.
Quasthoff was denied admission to the music conservatory in Hanover, Germany, 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. Thus, he chose to study voice privately. He also studied law for three years. Prior to his music career, he worked six years as a radio announcer for NDR. He also did voice-over work for television.
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. 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 Krzyztof Penderecki's Credo, the recording of which won a Grammy Award for best choral recording.
Quasthoff recorded for Deutsche Grammophon.
As "artist in residence" at the Barbican Hall, 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 marks his 50th birthday year. He was the "Desert Island Discs" guest (BBC Radio 4) on 1 February 2009 (repeated 6 February 2009).
Quasthoff is a full-time voice professor. During his performing career, he performed about 50 times a year. He is currently a professor at the Hanns Eisler School of Music in Berlin; he previously taught at the music academy of Detmold, Germany.
On January 11, 2012, Quasthoff confirmed his decision to quit singing, citing persistent health problems.
Quasthoff won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance in 2000. It was for his performance together with the mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter of Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn. They were accompanied by 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 leading members of the RIAS Chamber Choir of Berlin Baroque Soloists 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 2006, Quasthoff married Claudia Schtelsick, a German TV journalist.
In a 2003 interview, Quasthoff revealed that he is active in political thinking, is a socialist, and was opposed to the Iraq War and to the actions taken by Israel in regard to the building of the Israeli West Bank barrier.
- "Thomas Quasthoff – Biography". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
- Michael Quasthoff: Thomas Quasthoff – Der Bariton, Henschel Verlag , Berlin, 2006, S. 46–47, ISBN 978-3-89487-545-9.
- Stephen Moss, 'I'm lucky. Everyone can see my disability'. The Guardian, 20 October 2000.
- Peter Conrad, "More, much more than this...". The Observer, 7 April 2002.
- Jay Nordlinger, "Scatting & Growling His Way Through". New York Sun, 9 March 2007.
- Allan Kozinn, "Put Me Out There, Coach. I’m Ready to Sing." New York Times, 7 March 2007.
- Maddocks, Fiona (February 25, 2005). "Thomas Quasthoff Speaks Very Frankly". andante.com. Archived from the original on March 5, 2005. Retrieved November 10, 2013.
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