Voice of authority

Thomas Quasthoff holds forth
By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  November 14, 2007


German baritone Thomas Quasthoff has overcome adversity (his mother took Thalidomide) to become the outstanding German lieder singer of his generation — but that’s just part of his career, which has also taken in Bach cantatas, live staged opera (Don Fernando in Fidelio and Amfortas in Parsifal), and jazz (an “American Songbook” recital at Carnegie Hall last March and the 2007 Deutsche Grammophon release Watch What Happens — The Jazz Album). He made his Boston debut in 1998, singing Gustav Mahler’s sublime song cycle Das Lied von der Erde (“The Song of the Earth”) with tenor Ben Heppner and the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Seiji Ozawa. Now he and Heppner are back to perform the same piece November 19 with the Berlin Philharmonic under Simon Rattle, in a Celebrity Series presentation that’s Boston’s hottest classical-music event in years. Here’s what he had to say over the phone from Berlin.

Has your view of Das Lied von ver Erde changed since 1998?
My view hasn’t changed. But my voice changed. I’m much more experienced, I’m older, and since that time there is a very very close relationship to the Berlin Philharmonic and Simon Rattle. The fact that makes me extremely happy is that I’m doing this also again with Ben Heppner whom I love from the bottom of my heart not only as a great artist but also as a very very nice human being.

Do you sing with Ben often? 
No, not that often, but I love him very very much.

Have you sung Das Lied with Ben since 1998?
No, I haven’t. I haven’t been singing Das Lied so very often, because it’s a baritone piece, and my voice is now more and more in the bass-baritone role. I’m able to sing it, but I’m not doing it very often. But for this engagement I couldn’t say no. Carnegie Hall and the Boston Symphony and Boston again, and I love the Hall, even the people in Boston, I love Boston by itself very very much, so I’m really looking forward to coming.

How is doing Das Lied with Simon Rattle dfferent from doing it  with Seiji Ozawa? 
The question is a little problematic because I haven’t done it yet. The rehearsals are starting on Monday, and then I can tell you whether there’s really a big difference. But I think in many ways it’s a little bit comparable, because both Seiji and Simon are extremely impassioned conductors. The musical view will be different, but that I can tell you even better when I am starting rehearsals.

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Related: Love and loss, Not quite eternal, Hail and farewell, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa,  More more >
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