Thomas Quasthoff, Wigmore Hall, London
Monday 01 December 2008
No wonder the hall is full: a recital by the German baritone Thomas Quasthoff is not to be missed.
Perched on his customised stool, he immediately banishes any thoughts about his diminutive, thalidomide-affected frame. This is his favourite arena, and he commands it with easy grace. He starts with clarifications: tonight he will not sing Mussorgsky's "Songs and Dances of Death" in Russian: he only knows two words in that language, and to sing convincingly you must inhabit the text. By the time he launches into his first Schubert song, the spell is already cast.
Quasthoff is currently on a crusade for the lied, Germany's national song-form. As he rightly points out, his country owns the greatest lyricists in the world, but has no competition to reflect it, hence the international one Quasthoff has set up. In his view, each lied is a drama in miniature, and the rarely sung piece he opens with nicely exemplifies that thesis. Schubert's "Der Sanger", to Goethe's words, concerns a minstrel's arrival at a castle, and his masterly performance. It's a curiously matter-of-fact tale, but Quasthoff's "I sing as the bird sings in the branches" is very persuasive.
That persuasiveness lies in the burnished beauty of Quasthoff's tone. He colours his sound like a jazzman, going for instrumental rather than emotional effects, but there's plenty of emotion under the surface. While "Over Every Mountain-top" becomes a thread of sound travelling through stillness, "To Coachman Chronos" crackles with drunken energy. In Mussorgsky's paean to the grim reaper, Quasthoff demonstrates his dramatic gift, and he turns "Serenade" – with the aid of his brilliant accompanist Justus Zeyen – into a ravishingly fatal enchantment.
TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies
Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 2 Kate Moss: Previously unpublished nude photo revealed by Mert and Marcus
- 3 Indian woman creates 'Marriage CV' after parents put her on dating site: 'Definitely not marriage material. Won’t grow long hair, ever'
- 4 World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
- 5 Bad Jews poster 'censored' on London Tube
The 9 rules every Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon had to follow are wonderfully pedantic
Toy Story 4: Pixar promises a romcom storyline 'separate' from the much-loved trilogy
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Bad Jews poster 'censored' on London Tube
World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Elif Shafak: Turkish author warns against rise of British nationalism
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'