Thomas Quasthoff ‘The Voice’

Thomas Quasthoff's Memoir: The Voice(Photo: Wolgang Reese)
Thomas Quasthoff's Memoir: The Voice(Photo: Wolgang Reese)

Musicians know all about suffering. Internalizing their pain often makes for great music. Thomas Quasthoff has had more pain than most. He’s a bass-baritone, a leading concert artist,  born in 1959. His mother was directed to take thalidomide during her pregnancy. Tommy was born a dwarf, with no arms, flipper-hands, no hips and stunted legs. A “thalidomide baby.”

Quasthoff’s story has been told on TV and film all over the world. He even charmed Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes. This is a man who chooses to be happy. Elevators, shoe- tying, flag waving, even the bathroom present him big challenges. Again, Quasthoff chooses to be happy. You can hear it in his sound-warm, even, dark and beautiful.

Gorgeous voice. You oughta hear him in Schubert:

Thomas Quasthoff wrote a memoir in 2009, recently published in the States as The Voice. A singer memoir this is not. Yes, there’s plenty of humor, and a lot of wine and women to go with the song.  It’s the story of a gifted man who suffered a lot, and  lived in a body cast for much of his childhood. He endured state schools for the disabled,  jeering, and the anguish of his mother. But his father sang , and Tommy wanted to be like Papa. For twenty five years, Thomas Quasthoff has enjoyed a sensational career. He eventually appeared in staged opera, in Fidelio and as Amfortas in Parsifal. The suggestion that he sing Verdi’s Rigoletto ( a hunchback) is tasteless, and it’s too high for his voice anyway.

It was a big disappointment when Quasthoff announced his retirement from performing earlier this year. No more concerts, no more jazz clubs, no more opera. Not for the public, anyway. He’s happily married, has a daughter, and is teaching in Berlin. Thomas Quasthoff says it best: “There’s a lot more to do.”