Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bass-Baritone Thomas Quasthoff Announces His Retirement from the Stage

   Much to the sorrow and surprise of many in the world of classical music, German bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff released a press announcement through his representatives that he shall retire from public performance due to health reasons. He is fifty-two years of age, and these tidings came with an outpouring of sympathy and sentiment for the legendary performer from many renowned vocalists on the social media platform Twitter, and I expect that tomorrow will bring even greater coverage of the happening. I am not familiar with the ailments that plague this revered performer, but I am certain that he shall be sorely missed by his colleagues. He shall continue to teach at the Hans Eisler School of Music in Berlin, Germany, and he assures his audience that he shall explore another portion of life, the vast area of politics and current events. I recall a blog post from Joyce DiDonato in reference to this singer. Her particular post that I recall documented a day of rehearsal for a gala in honor of Marilyn Horne. Quasthoff was rehearsing with astute and serenely gifted accompanist Martin Katz at the piano, and Joyce was simply overwhelmed by the intimacy of his performance of Wie bist du, meine Konigin. Though the concert hall was bereft of the usual audience it accommodates, Joyce reports that Quasthoff sang with perfection, and it was so endearingly exquisite that it brought her to tears. Indeed, I can imagine that those tears of regret of which she spoke shall readily flow again once she hears of the news.

   Thomas Quasthoff is best known as one of the most skilled and erudite interpreters of Lieder. Though he has some reputation in the world of opera, he never sought to tax himself in this art form, and we possess few memories of his work on the stage; however, his operatic endeavors were held as triumphs, and he was respected all the more for those efforts. I am not as familiar with Quasthoff's contribution to the recorded legacy of German art song, which I must confess is a great travesty; moreover, I do not maintain any capacious knowledge upon the subject of lieder in general, but I do possess a disc of Quasthoff's that was released under Deutsche Grammophon in which he was accompanied by pianist Justus Zeyen. I am blessed to have it, and I shall have to hear it now to acquaint myself with the surreal elegance of his voice of which I have heard so much. He has won numerous awards and accolades during his career that has spanned almost forty years. including the Herbert von Karajan Music Prize, three Grammy Awards, and an Echo Klassik Award.

  From his press release that was manifested today, he had this to say.

   “After almost 40 years, I have decided to retire from concert life. My
health no longer allows me to live up to the high standard that I have always set for my art
and myself. I owe a lot to this wonderful profession and leave without a trace of bitterness.
On the contrary, I am looking forward to the new challenges that will now enter my life. I
would like to thank all my fellow musicians and colleagues, with whom I stood together on
stage, all the organizers, and my audience for their loyalty.”

   This announcement and the happening it foretells reminds me of why I seek to capture every moment I may to make the most of its opportunity in life to help another person or to improve their life in any means that they shall allow. Furthermore, it also brings the painful truth to my attention that there are yet chances that I must miss to experience the best of life. As a prospective, hopeful opera singer, I currently witness the world of opera from without the confines of the professional or even amateur branches of the industry, and I hear and see singers with whom I should desire immensely to perform, with whom I wish to endeavor to recreate the sublime environment that certain performances manufacture. Nevertheless, as I grow older, these singers that arrest my attention and humble, sincere hope that I may be granted to perform with them in the future also gain in age, and this naturally precludes me from ever knowing any of them in a professional capacity. As much as I may wish to sing with Renee Fleming in an opera or upon the concert stage, the thought resides in the dim space of my mind that the possibility of this desire becoming an actual occurrence is truly minute. My spirit weeps that I can make no effort to preserve these dreams in myself or others without this logical conclusion's intrusion upon the hopes of those who possess such dreams.

   I pray that I find you in excellent spirits for the coming year, and I hope that God grants you every blessing. Thomas Quasthoff shall leave a tremendous void in the world of classical music, but I look to the next generation of followers in the art to make every attempt to fill it. I proffer my gratitude to all of you for continuing to read my musings.


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