Thomas Quasthoff to Retire from Concert Stage

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After nearly 40 years on the concert scene, German bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff has decided to retire from singing due to health reasons.

The news was first reported in the German news media on Wednesday and immediately spread across international outlets. It comes on the heels of Quasthoff announcing in September that he was cancelling the remainder of his 2011 engagements due to persistent laryngitis.

In a press release on his Web site (and reposted by arts blogger Norman Lebrecht), Quasthoff stated:

"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.”

No further details were given on the nature of Quasthoff's health problems. The 52-year-old singer was born with serious birth defects caused by his mother's exposure during pregnancy to the drug thalidomide. He spent his first years in hospitals and was initially not expected to live long.

In the statement, Quasthoff said he will continue to teach at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin and further his work as artistic director of international song competition “Das Lied,” which launches next year. Not one to take it easy in retirement, Quasthoff will also be a presence at the Konzerthaus Berlin with talk show series “Thomas Quasthoff Nachtgespräche.” The next installment of this program will feature thesp Katharina Thalbach on February 22.

The singer was last heard in New York with an April 2011 concert appearance at Carnegie Hall alongside soprano Sylvia Schwartz, mezzo Bernarda Fink and tenor Michael Schade. In September, he released his latest disc, Tell It Like It Is, featuring covers of pop songs like “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “I Can’t Stand the Rain” and “Short People.” Of his May 2010 recital at Carnegie Hall, WQXR host Naomi Lewin wrote “The recital went beyond superb singing. Quasthoff's interpretation—or rather, embodiment—of the material was what makes a recital truly great.”