Thomas Quasthoff has overcome many challenges that a lot of classical singers have never had to consider.
The bass-baritone, born on Nov. 9, 1959, in Hildesheim, had to deal with serious birth defects that resulted from his mother’s exposure to thalidomide during her pregnancy. The result was that his physical limitations (he is four foot four inches) denied him entry into the conservatory in Hanover.
He wound up studying voice privately, studied law for a few years, and worked as a radio announcer for NDR for six years prior to his music career.
In 1988, he won the ARD International Music Competition. In 1995, he debuted in the United States at the Oregon Bach Festival and in 1998 he was part of the world premiere of Penderecki’s “Credo.”
He finally hit the opera stage in 2003 as Don Fernando in “Fidelio.”
He continued performing until 2012 when he retired. He would go on to become a voice professor at the music academy in Detmold and the Hanns Eisler School of Music in Berlin.
He has won a Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance in 2000, 2004, and 2006; he has been nominated nine times in his career, his last two coming in 2007. He was also the winner of the Herbert Von Karajan Music Prize in 2009.
Quasthoff was never a staple of the opera house, much of his performance work dedicated to cantatas and other such concert pieces. He was also a leading lieder interpreter throughout his career.
Watch and Listen
Here is a film that details his experience.
And here he is in Schubert’s “Die Schöne Müllerin.”