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Heartbreaking news: Thomas Quasthoff confirms that he has sung for the last time

I’ve just talked to Tommy Quasthoff and had confirmation of his very sad decision to give up singing, for persistent health reasons, at the age of 52.

‘But I am totally happy with it!!!!” says Tommy, who is one of the sweetest natured men alive.

Tommy told his friend and agent, Helga Machreich-Unterzaucher, that he had always played in the Champions League and was not willing to do anything that was below his phenomenally high standard. I, and all his friends and admirers, will greatly respect that decision.

He is, however, not going to disappear. He will contine to serve as a judge on the Wigmore Hall singing competition and to present his live interviews in a small Berlin concert hall. He is full of life and eager to share it.

Here’s a press statement in English that is just going out from the agency Press Release.

Quasthoff, who was born with terrible disabilities, has been described by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the greatest male lieder singer of our time.

Here’s an archived piece I wrote about him 11 years ago.

Here’s the man at his best.

And here’s an extract from something I wrote after spending an afternoon with him last summer.

He is just 1.34 metres tall and has very short arms, the consequence of a drug called Thalidomide that his mother was prescribed during pregnancy. His first years were spent in hospital among cerebral palsy sufferers and he was not expected to live very long. Only the support of a close family and his own innate humour and stubbornness enabled him to transcend his circumstances and find his voice in art. ‘I’m a normal person, only shorter,’ he will tell you, a huge grin stretched across his face.

Listen to the full conversation here.

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Comments

  1. John Parfrey says:

    A major loss. I hope Thomas knows the gift he has given to humanity with his towering voice and even more towering wisdom. I truly hope that he will remain an active advocate for the arts and for the rights of the disabled. And we have a rich recorded legacy of his artistry, which has always been of the highest order. Just an incredible person!

  2. Respect and admiration for a tremendous achievement both live and on CD. He was the Hans Hotter of his time.

  3. Rodney Punt says:

    I was in Munich in the early 1990′s and noticed a playbill for a Lieder recital at the Herkulessaal, featuring a baritone new to me. A man named Thomas Quasthoff was to sing, among others, the Heinrich Heine songs from Franz Schubert’s Schwanengesang. I bought a ticket and took my place in the middle of the hall. An elderly couple entered my row and sat next to me. When Quasthoff walked on stage, I was shocked at his short stature and obvious disabilities. He had to climb on a platform next to the piano just to get his head above its height. And then he sang – supremely, with deep resonance and a huge range, a voice even throughout the register and full of genuine expressive power. When he got to the Schubert songs, their significance became apparent: ‘Der Atlas’ carries the weight of the world on his shoulders; The ‘Doppelgänger’s shadow follows the man everywhere. I began to sob silently, or so I thought. The elderly German next to me asked in English, “Are you an American?” Struggling to control myself, I responded that I was. He said, “That man on stage, he is my son.”

    • … I can understand very deep your feelings listening beloved Tommy …. and sitting nearby his beautiful parents. I am sure you made them happy…

  4. While I’m predominately a Jazz musician I’m a great admirer of Thomas (who as you know is no stranger to Jazz). I heard him last year @ Carnegie Hall and will remember the experience for the rest of my life! His musicianship is on a level that very few artists ever achieve even occasionally, and he did so with a consistency that Michael Jordan would envy. I’m saddened to hear that he is leaving the aspect of his career and art that made the world fall in love with him. But I’m sure his indomitable spirit will lead him to continue to enrich this world of ours.

  5. Spencer Means says:

    I was nearing 60 and retirement about six years ago when I heard Quastoff live for the first time at Carnegie Hall singing Schubert (my favorite composer). I had recently “flirted with decompensation, ” as my therapist said (meaning I had nearly had a “nervous breakdown”), and I walked down 7th Ave. towards the lights and life of Times Square wondering how I was going to remake my life, and before I got to my subway station I knew I was going to Europe, to a city I’d always wanted to visit. The desire and the fearful certainty that I would go came out of nowhere and had nothing to do, I thought, with the musical experience I’d just had. I just felt alive again and full of hope and desire. I’ve been traveling ever since as I never did before, learning new languages, discovering new passions, becoming in many ways a different person. Only later did I come to realize that Quastoff’s recital had triggered this transformation. His retirement is premature, of course, but his art will live on in his recordings and through the insights he will be able to pass on to other artists. Here, in case he might be aware of this blog, I simply want to thank him for that art and for the inspiration he, subliminally, gave me to renew a life I felt was over. Vielen dank, Herr Quastoff, und Gott segne Sie.

  6. Sirje Viise says:

    I am so grateful to have heard him live several times, though every time has left me blubbering, makeup running, moved and consoled. Hearing his glorious voice live is indeed transformative, so inspring, so bewitching. Thank you, Mr. Quasthoff!

  7. Val Demma says:

    I was supposed to see Thomas at Orchestra Hall in Chicago last year as part of the Quasthoff Liebeslieder Project. Unfortunately he had to cancel due to a bout of laryngitis and the concert wasn’t able to be rescheduled. I had been hoping he’d return to Chicago sometime soon and I’m sad to hear that his singing career is over but I wish him all the best and I want to thank him for the gift of his voice. He truly is one of the greatest singers of our time.

  8. IT WAS 2nd OCTOBER 1990, IN BRATISLAVA, SLOVAKIA, WHERE I CONDUCTED THE SLOVAK PHILHARMONIC AT THE BRATISLAVA- FESTIVAL.
    ON THE PROGRAM WAS ONE OF MY MOST BELOVED MAHLER’S DOCUMENTATION – ” EINES FARENEN GESELLEN” WHICH I USED TO SING AND ACCOMPANY MYSELF (PRIVATELY), WITH A LONGING NOSTALGIA… WISHING THAT ONE DAY MY SOLOIST WILL FULFILL THAT VOICE SOUND AND QUALITY AS I LMMAGIND. THE CONCERT WAS FILMED BY SOME TV STATION, EITHRT GERMAN OR SLOVAK. I DO NOT KNOW IF IT STILL EXISTS. I WISH I COULD HEVE A COPY, AS A SOUVENIR WITH THOMAS.

    I WAS PRIVILEGED TO HAVE THOMAS QUESTHOF AS A SOLOIST. HE PERFORMED MAHLER SO BEAUTIFUL, WITH DEEP FEELINGS, AS IF HE COMPOSED IT HIMSELF.
    I WONDER IF HE REMEMBERS TEARS RUNNING ON MY FACE DURING THAT CREATION.
    RECALLING HIS BIOGRAPHY AS HE TOLD ME, NO DOUBT THAT HE IS MOST ADMIRED AND A UNIQUE PERSON IN OUR WORLD. WE ALL WISH HIM FULL RECOVERY, WITH THE HOPE TO EXPECT HIS COMEBACK BACK PERFORMANCE.

    DALIA ATLAS, CONDUCTOR

  9. Thomas Wolf says:

    Mr. Quasthoff has consistently provided a fabulous oasis in a time when many people pretend to sing the great works of our great composers! What a shame that the time has passed so quickly and that he feels he must leave us at a time when he becomes “geklärt”, as it were. I especially love the recordings early on of Brahms Lieder. And thank you for all the glorious Schubert you have given us.
    God bless you and thank you for continuing the tradition!
    Thomas Wolf

  10. Sanda Schuldmann says:

    Such a sad day. How wonderful and totally amazing it is to once again understand that the great artistry of QUASTHOFF stems from the man himself. He is leaving while still on top. HE loves music so selfelssly. Admirable is an understatement.

    I am so very grateful for being at his recital he gave at Ozawa Hall may be 13 years ago or so.
    I have his Winterrise with Danny Barenboim. Simply MAGICAL.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  11. Dian stroud says:

    I have only in this last hour, discovered this inspirational man, Thomas Quasthoff, via an interview with Norman La Brecht. His honesty touched my soul at a very deep level…this is what makes life worth living, this meaningful connection with another human being. Thank you, Professor Quasthoff, for being fully you….may you receive back
    for your own nourishment the joy you have given to so many.

  12. Bruno Verbeek says:

    I am saddened to find out Professor Quasthoff’s health has finally caught up with him. I am extremely thankful for all the wonderful recitals, concertantes I had the privilege of attending. His CDs are among the most played in my collection. And, finally, he is the one artist that got me interested in classical vocal music. I think it was 20 years ago when I was watching TV and, while flipping channels, stumbled upon a recorded concert of Quasthoff and Spencer performing Winterreise in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. I never had taken the time to listen properly to classical music (being an avid listener to pop and jazz music), but even I at that time could hear something special was happening. Breathlessly, I continued listening and, like many members in the audience, could not contain my tears. I have had that same emotionally moving experience at most of his recitals that I attended since then…
    So thank you professor Quasthoff for all the music; thank you for making a 25 year old aware that there is much more music than he ever dreamt; and most of all, thank you for those moments of pure selfless joy and wonder I experienced at your concerts.

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