Becoming a Lied Singer: Thomas Quasthoff and the Art of German Song


Becoming a Lied Singer: Thomas Quasthoff and the Art of German Song

Professor Thomas Quasthoff presents a personal journey into the short but intensely expressive art form of the German lied song.


Similar Content

Browse content similar to Becoming a Lied Singer: Thomas Quasthoff and the Art of German Song. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!

Transcript


LineFromTo

My name is Thomas Quasthoff and I am a lover of the German lied song.

0:00:030:00:08

I used to sing these songs around the world

0:00:090:00:11

and now, I have turned from practitioner to teacher.

0:00:110:00:16

Lied singing, for me, is the most intimate, difficult,

0:00:170:00:23

beautiful form of music-making.

0:00:230:00:26

"Lied" simply means "song",

0:00:280:00:30

and from the domestic drawing rooms of the 19th century

0:00:300:00:33

to the concert halls of the 21st,

0:00:330:00:36

these are the songs in which the German romantic soul bloomed.

0:00:360:00:41

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:00:410:00:44

Little songs, huge emotions.

0:00:490:00:52

Poems of nature, love and death, set for solo voice and a piano.

0:00:520:00:58

SHE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:01:010:01:05

Lied is a little work, a short work and it opens a world.

0:01:050:01:10

We will discover the most intimate music of the great composers.

0:01:100:01:15

What's so wonderful about it is it's just straight to you.

0:01:150:01:18

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:01:180:01:21

Franz Schubert, who seized the new possibilities of the piano

0:01:290:01:33

and created over 600 songs.

0:01:330:01:35

It's like being offered a limitless free masterclass

0:01:350:01:39

with the greatest prince of song who, in my opinion, ever lived.

0:01:390:01:43

And the enigmatic Johannes Brahms.

0:01:430:01:46

SHE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:01:460:01:49

With Brahms, it was always a very, very deep love affair

0:01:500:01:55

between his incredible, wonderful, glorious music and my small soul.

0:01:550:02:02

I worked nearly 40 years as a concert singer

0:02:040:02:07

and especially, also, as a lied singer,

0:02:070:02:11

and it would be great if you could share this wonderful experience

0:02:110:02:16

together with me.

0:02:160:02:17

THOMAS SINGS IN GERMAN

0:02:240:02:27

That was me, singing in 2003.

0:03:180:03:21

Now I have retired from concert lied singing.

0:03:210:03:24

I am a professor at the Hanns Eisler School of Music in Berlin,

0:03:240:03:29

passing on this two-century-old tradition to the next generation.

0:03:290:03:34

Der Genesene An Die Hoffnung. Oh, one of my favourites.

0:03:340:03:37

STUDENT SINGS IN GERMAN

0:03:370:03:40

It's not really until you go to a country

0:03:500:03:52

and you work in German and you see it that you begin

0:03:520:03:57

to understand the kind of context.

0:03:570:03:59

THOMAS SINGS IN GERMAN

0:03:590:04:04

I love this music.

0:04:040:04:05

All the context is about love, mislove, drama, death.

0:04:050:04:11

Very rarely, you have a happy song in between.

0:04:110:04:15

Most of it is depressed and praying for better times.

0:04:150:04:21

Like nowadays.

0:04:210:04:23

THEY LAUGH

0:04:230:04:25

The German lieder, it's often written in a very romantic style,

0:04:250:04:28

so the stories it's telling are quite dark and deep

0:04:280:04:32

and they have a different root to English song.

0:04:320:04:36

LAWRENCE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:04:370:04:41

Can you try to sing it a little bit without this...?

0:04:470:04:50

Yeah.

0:04:500:04:52

I'll show you the difference.

0:04:520:04:53

THOMAS SINGS THE SAME LINE TWICE, SLIGHTLY DIFFERENTLY

0:04:530:04:58

-More space.

-Yeah.

0:05:030:05:05

Lawrence came with his British technique,

0:05:050:05:08

which is always a little bit... like this.

0:05:080:05:10

So, I'm freeing his voice and he completely trusts me.

0:05:100:05:14

Always searching, Lawrence, for light vowels, not this kind of...

0:05:140:05:19

-You did this in England. Now we are here.

-Yes.

0:05:190:05:22

So, use pure vowels. That's much nicer.

0:05:220:05:26

LAWRENCE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:05:260:05:29

-OK, let's try something. Can you come to me?

-Yeah.

0:05:330:05:37

Can you put your hands here on my ribs?

0:05:370:05:39

Little lower. You see...

0:05:390:05:42

THOMAS SINGS IN GERMAN

0:05:420:05:46

-Can you...?

-Yeah.

-This here.

-Yeah.

0:05:460:05:49

-Yeah, like lifting it up a little bit.

-Yeah.

0:05:490:05:52

That gives, also, a little bit more sound. Can you try it?

0:05:520:05:55

LAWRENCE SINGS IN GERMAN Ah!

0:05:560:05:59

-Yeah. It's much better.

-Yeah.

0:06:020:06:05

I was an artist who didn't fix, really, every note

0:06:050:06:08

because, for me, that was always the death of music-making.

0:06:080:06:13

Can you do it again?

0:06:130:06:15

Let go.

0:06:490:06:50

Lied songs are poetry set to music

0:07:320:07:35

and the art form started a little over 200 years ago,

0:07:350:07:39

when a new sense of the individual, the Romantik Betreffen -

0:07:390:07:43

the Romantic Movement - swept across Europe.

0:07:430:07:46

Romanticism in Germany is about

0:07:480:07:51

turning towards human emotions,

0:07:510:07:54

towards emotions that are deep and dark, like melancholy,

0:07:540:07:57

and a return to that which is natural and authentic

0:07:570:08:03

and belonging to the folk or the people.

0:08:030:08:05

German thinkers and poets are interested

0:08:080:08:11

in constructing a national German literature

0:08:110:08:14

and this turned towards the folk tale, towards nature,

0:08:140:08:19

served as a kind of shared culture across German-speaking Europe.

0:08:190:08:23

We are now in Heidelberg,

0:08:280:08:30

where it's starting the fifth lied competition...

0:08:300:08:35

SHE TRILLS

0:08:350:08:37

..which was created in 2009 by myself, um,

0:08:370:08:44

to support the lied singing in Germany and to give young singers

0:08:440:08:49

the opportunity to stay with five days on lied singing.

0:08:490:08:52

I think we have 24 different nations,

0:08:520:08:56

so we will see what's going to happen.

0:08:560:08:58

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:08:590:09:03

This is the secret of singing lieder.

0:09:130:09:16

You have to sing lieder as if you are really singing

0:09:160:09:19

for one person and this one person is the public

0:09:190:09:23

in front of you.

0:09:230:09:25

CONTESTANT SINGS IN GERMAN

0:09:250:09:28

We have the pianist and yourself.

0:09:330:09:37

And to create an atmosphere, it is absolutely necessary

0:09:380:09:43

that you give the audience the feeling that it's not rehearsed,

0:09:430:09:47

that you create, from that moment where you are on stage,

0:09:470:09:51

the poem, together with the music.

0:09:510:09:53

APPLAUSE

0:09:530:09:56

-Enjoy, Heidelberg.

-Danke schoen.

-Gerne.

0:09:560:09:59

Life, death,

0:10:210:10:23

deep joy. Little songs, huge emotions.

0:10:230:10:29

And everything in a very minimalistic way.

0:10:290:10:33

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:10:330:10:36

Song is such a precious thing,

0:10:400:10:43

I think, especially now,

0:10:430:10:44

when everything gets bigger and bigger and louder and louder

0:10:440:10:47

and you're assaulted by noise.

0:10:470:10:49

It's so wonderful to be drawn in to a world...that's, well,

0:10:490:10:56

far away, perhaps, but the emotions are the same as we all have now.

0:10:560:10:59

All our contestants perform songs composed by Robert Schuman,

0:11:080:11:13

Wolfgang Rihm and, of course, Franz Schubert.

0:11:130:11:16

He was the first great lieder writer.

0:11:160:11:20

I adore Schubert but...it's the greatest test.

0:11:200:11:24

They can choose from an amazing 600 poems

0:11:370:11:40

he set to music in his short 13-year career.

0:11:400:11:44

It's incredibly moving,

0:11:540:11:56

the sheer phenomena of Schubert's life,

0:11:560:11:59

how much he did in such a short space of time.

0:11:590:12:01

SHE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:12:010:12:05

But it is really worth remembering what the songs were for.

0:12:050:12:08

We see them now, in concert halls and competitions

0:12:080:12:10

and all the rest of it.

0:12:100:12:12

They were made for living rooms, the living rooms of his friends.

0:12:120:12:16

A couple of hundred years ago, in Schubert's Vienna,

0:12:170:12:20

these songs would be performed at private house parties,

0:12:200:12:23

bringing this poetry of love, death and nature

0:12:230:12:26

directly into the domestic living room.

0:12:260:12:28

This kind of thing became known as a Schubertiade.

0:12:310:12:35

Moritz von Schwind was a frequent guest and he sketched one of them.

0:12:350:12:39

Schubert is there at the piano and around him are his friends -

0:12:390:12:42

the musicians, poets and lieder lovers,

0:12:420:12:44

who were the original audience for these songs.

0:12:440:12:48

For our Das Lied competition in Heidelberg,

0:12:510:12:54

photographer Martin Walz is recreating

0:12:540:12:57

Moritz von Schwind's Schubertiade picture

0:12:570:13:00

with the judges and all our contestants.

0:13:000:13:04

You make a face that you win all the first prize.

0:13:040:13:08

LAUGHTER

0:13:080:13:10

There would have been lied singing and then, afterwards,

0:13:100:13:13

some eating and drinking and dancing.

0:13:130:13:16

Cheese!

0:13:250:13:26

The function of these lieder was as a common, cultural material

0:13:310:13:38

for the German Bildungsburger.

0:13:380:13:40

"Bildungsburger" meaning the cultured middle classes.

0:13:400:13:44

These particular songs were printed, they were widely distributed,

0:13:440:13:49

so that these educated members of the middle class

0:13:490:13:53

could gather together, listen to these songs

0:13:530:13:56

and share this kind of common culture.

0:13:560:14:00

SHE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:14:000:14:03

Personally, I fell in love

0:14:090:14:12

with Schubert's songs aged 14,

0:14:120:14:15

when other boys of my age

0:14:150:14:17

were chasing girls and I heard, on the radio,

0:14:170:14:21

the Schubert lieder, and I was hooked for life.

0:14:210:14:24

Here he is, pouring out his heart

0:14:440:14:46

and I find it almost unbearably moving that this great composer,

0:14:460:14:51

who was only five foot tall, who suffered from syphilis,

0:14:510:14:55

which meant that his hair fell out

0:14:550:14:57

because of the treatment through mercury,

0:14:570:14:59

who was myopic and fat,

0:14:590:15:01

his nickname was "Little Mushroom",

0:15:010:15:04

that he should pour out his heart

0:15:040:15:08

in these wrenching songs of unrequited love.

0:15:080:15:11

SHE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:15:110:15:15

The people who are participating here are professional singers,

0:15:280:15:32

finding their footsteps in the musical world.

0:15:320:15:37

We're just about to go and find out

0:15:370:15:39

the result of whether we're through to the semifinal.

0:15:390:15:42

It's nerve-racking right now, but we felt good after yesterday,

0:15:420:15:46

-I think.

-Yeah.

-We'll just have to wait and see.

-Que sera sera.

0:15:460:15:50

-We did the best we could under the circumstances.

-Yeah.

0:15:520:15:55

-And we like working together, so...

-We enjoyed it.

-We did.

0:15:550:15:58

The standard is really very, very high.

0:16:010:16:04

Lied singing only can survive if we put this level very high.

0:16:040:16:11

We need artists who have something to say

0:16:110:16:15

and who are still going on in this wonderful tradition.

0:16:150:16:18

I'm generally very critical because I know how difficult,

0:16:200:16:24

in our days, it is to get a job.

0:16:240:16:27

A lot of the singers could well be working

0:16:270:16:29

in isolation all over the world,

0:16:290:16:31

so they get an opportunity to meet other singers.

0:16:310:16:34

We have nobody in the next round.

0:16:340:16:36

Ha-ha-ha.

0:16:360:16:38

THOMAS PLAYS THE PIANO AND SINGS IN GERMAN

0:16:380:16:43

It's not all about the winning. It's about being seen

0:16:560:16:59

and getting over the nerves of singing to an international jury.

0:16:590:17:03

Don't be sad if you are not in the next round

0:17:030:17:06

because every day is the chance to get better.

0:17:060:17:10

Thank you very, very much that you will all be here

0:17:100:17:13

and to all who are in the next round, congratulations.

0:17:130:17:17

Give the best and we're looking forward for tomorrow.

0:17:170:17:19

APPLAUSE

0:17:190:17:22

The music deserves a perfect preparation

0:17:220:17:25

to handle incredible, great, small pieces

0:17:250:17:31

of wonderful, great art.

0:17:310:17:34

And the respect for the music and the composer

0:17:340:17:38

demands that you are very precise

0:17:380:17:42

and full of love to work on these pieces.

0:17:420:17:46

STUDENT SINGS IN GERMAN

0:17:470:17:51

You have to be demanding as a teacher - not to let go too easy,

0:18:010:18:05

not to say, "Everything is wonderful," if it's not wonderful.

0:18:050:18:09

You know what my problem is? You know what my problem is?

0:18:130:18:17

You are singing it

0:18:170:18:19

and I hear that you put some emotion in the lines,

0:18:190:18:26

but what happens in the song?

0:18:260:18:28

-Whom is he asking?

-Well, himself...

0:18:280:18:31

-..I thought.

-So, if you're asking yourself and you sing...

0:18:330:18:38

THOMAS SINGS A LINE

0:18:380:18:41

It's nice. But if I ask myself, it's...

0:18:410:18:44

HE SINGS WITH MORE RESTRAINT AND PASSION

0:18:440:18:49

-You know what I mean?

-I know what you mean, yes.

0:18:490:18:53

I try to be honest.

0:18:530:18:55

This is not always nice for every student

0:18:550:18:57

but if you don't try it here, during the lessons, where should you try?

0:18:570:19:02

And I'm a nice critic. In the real world, it's a little bit different.

0:19:020:19:07

They are critics too, but they are not always nice.

0:19:070:19:10

For me, it's a little bit too straight, how you sing.

0:19:100:19:13

# La, li, la, la, la, li, la. #

0:19:130:19:16

You easily could sing, # Where is the next vacation? #

0:19:160:19:20

I would sing this really...

0:19:200:19:22

THOMAS SINGS WITH RESTRAINT

0:19:220:19:24

A little bit anxious, also, and not this kind of... # La, li, la. #

0:19:240:19:27

I encourage you to trust this emotion.

0:19:270:19:31

-I want to hear that. It's not too much. Don't worry.

-Yeah.

-OK?

0:19:310:19:36

HE SINGS THE SAME LINE AGAIN

0:19:360:19:39

The colour of my voice is showing what the song is about.

0:19:390:19:43

This is where singing stops and where artistry starts

0:19:430:19:49

and this is, of course, what interests me, as a teacher,

0:19:490:19:53

um, much more than repeating notes which are written.

0:19:530:19:57

That's boring.

0:19:570:19:58

"Wenn meine Schmerzen schweigen." And you sing...

0:20:030:20:06

HE SINGS THE LINE LOUDLY

0:20:060:20:09

-I'm sorry but that's contra-productive.

-Yeah, yeah.

0:20:090:20:13

HE SINGS THE LINE MORE SOFTLY

0:20:130:20:16

-"Schweigen" is being silent, not loud.

-Yeah.

0:20:160:20:19

-Nochmals?

-Ja bitte.

0:20:190:20:21

THOMAS CLICKS HIS TONGUE IN TIME TO THE MUSIC

0:20:270:20:31

I think it's very important to encourage them

0:20:310:20:34

to trust their own emotions and I have to teach them, by the way,

0:20:340:20:38

love for what they do, passion for what they do.

0:20:380:20:42

-Yeah, this is the way it should be.

-Yeah.

0:21:170:21:20

-OK.

-Yeah.

-Wonderful.

-Thank you.

-You're more than welcome.

0:21:200:21:24

There's no question that Schubert is using everything

0:21:240:21:27

that the pianos of his time can do.

0:21:270:21:29

Huge variety of colour and kind of tactile sounds,

0:21:290:21:32

like conjuring a whole orchestra from the keyboard.

0:21:320:21:34

These 88 keys are the harmonic bed for lied singing,

0:21:390:21:45

so we are here, at the Steinway department in Hamburg,

0:21:450:21:49

to see how a piano is made.

0:21:490:21:52

It's very exciting to see that here, in this raw condition.

0:21:570:22:01

Even thinking about that this will be complete black grand piano.

0:22:010:22:07

He's checking, at the moment, that the keys are on the same level.

0:22:120:22:16

And, if not, he has to put some things under it.

0:22:160:22:20

Takes nearly a year to finish a piano completely.

0:22:200:22:24

And it's more than 7,000 single pieces built in a piano.

0:22:240:22:29

It's really amazing to think about

0:22:310:22:33

how much this instrument that we are seeing here,

0:22:330:22:37

in the raw condition, changed over the 19th century.

0:22:370:22:40

During Schubert's time, we had not this kind of grand pianos.

0:22:400:22:45

We had the pianoforte, which was a softer sound,

0:22:450:22:48

and it was maybe a little bit easier for the singers

0:22:480:22:52

to get over the volume of a pianoforte.

0:22:520:22:55

Then the industrialisation created much bigger instruments,

0:22:550:23:01

more affordable instruments for the middle class.

0:23:010:23:05

As the lieder form develops through the 19th century,

0:23:070:23:11

it demands other things of the voice.

0:23:110:23:13

It's possible to do them intimately,

0:23:130:23:16

but also they demand a much greater, almost operatic range.

0:23:160:23:20

But it's the 20th century where that really starts to happen.

0:23:200:23:22

It becomes more professionalised.

0:23:220:23:24

It becomes closer to a kind of concert experience

0:23:240:23:27

and THE figure of lieder singing

0:23:270:23:29

is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

0:23:290:23:31

He's absolutely, no question, THE model for lieder singers today.

0:23:310:23:35

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:23:360:23:40

He had, I think, the most beautiful, lyric baritone voice.

0:23:480:23:53

He was the first singer, I would say, after the Second World War,

0:23:560:24:01

who really started to give clear interpretation of songs.

0:24:010:24:06

He was not only singing it.

0:24:060:24:08

So, for example, if you...

0:24:080:24:11

When I heard the first time the Erlkonig,

0:24:110:24:13

I really could hear four different voices.

0:24:130:24:16

The narrator, the father, the son

0:24:170:24:20

and this evil wood spirit - the Erlkonig.

0:24:200:24:22

And I think, if it would be possible,

0:24:220:24:24

he would even do the horse.

0:24:240:24:26

And that was the first time a singer did this.

0:24:260:24:30

It's a terrifying story

0:24:310:24:33

that is a complete drama in just three minutes.

0:24:330:24:36

The father was anxious and nervous.

0:25:050:25:08

The child was very lightful.

0:25:150:25:17

The Erlkonig was bad and nasty colour.

0:25:370:25:40

The Erl King poem, the Erlkonig, has a very disturbing undertone.

0:25:560:26:01

But what we see in Schubert's treatment

0:26:010:26:05

is a kind of domestication of the text.

0:26:050:26:07

It's still a scary text

0:26:070:26:09

but it's a text that you're now able to welcome into your drawing room.

0:26:090:26:13

And so, people can sit around and enjoy this particular song,

0:26:130:26:17

even though it's deeply disturbing.

0:26:170:26:19

The voices who were singing in the Schubertiade

0:27:200:27:22

were not the big, trained lieder voices,

0:27:220:27:25

because the registers of Schubert's songs are written, frankly,

0:27:250:27:28

for normal people to sing, and that's the whole point of them -

0:27:280:27:31

that they go straight into your soul

0:27:310:27:33

because they're so immediate, so direct.

0:27:330:27:35

CLASSICAL GUITAR PLAYS INTRO TO THE ERL KING

0:27:350:27:39

# Who rides through the night

0:27:480:27:52

# So late in the wild?

0:27:520:27:57

# It is a father with his only child

0:27:570:28:03

# He rides with the boy

0:28:030:28:07

# Fast in his arms... #

0:28:070:28:09

Your first introduction to Schubert, one learnt it through the piano.

0:28:090:28:13

Fortunately, I've been studying classical guitar all of my life,

0:28:130:28:16

and so, I had the idea to start trying to play

0:28:160:28:19

at least some of his music on the guitar.

0:28:190:28:21

# I can run faster than your horse

0:28:210:28:24

# And if you're not willing

0:28:240:28:27

# I'll take you by force

0:28:270:28:31

# Oh, father, father!

0:28:310:28:34

# He's taking me away

0:28:340:28:37

# The evil Erl King has made me his prey... #

0:28:370:28:44

What makes him special and unique for me,

0:28:450:28:48

is that they ride this beautiful line between being folk music,

0:28:480:28:53

which is something that's very accessible

0:28:530:28:55

and very, um, earthy and connected to something we can all understand,

0:28:550:29:00

and yet has this fine touch of sophistication on top of it.

0:29:000:29:04

There's moments you want to stomp your feet

0:29:040:29:06

and there's moments you want to just be overwhelmed

0:29:060:29:08

by how emotional and insightful it can be.

0:29:080:29:10

# ..Arms the boy

0:29:100:29:13

# Was dead. #

0:29:150:29:17

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:29:250:29:29

Taking the time to dive into these songs, into these texts,

0:29:310:29:34

is like being offered a limitless free masterclass

0:29:340:29:38

with the greatest prince of song who, in my opinion, ever lived.

0:29:380:29:41

# There once was a king from the Thule shore

0:29:500:29:55

# Throughout his life, he was just, brave and bold

0:29:550:30:01

# But after the death of his paramour

0:30:010:30:06

# She left to him a cup made of gold

0:30:060:30:11

# This golden cup never left his side

0:30:110:30:16

# He raised it high at every banquet feast

0:30:160:30:21

# Until, at last, he'd close his kingly eyes

0:30:210:30:25

# And drift off to sleep... #

0:30:250:30:32

When I think of his illness and his fading at such an early age,

0:30:320:30:37

the times he must have spent alone with his poems, I think,

0:30:370:30:40

more than anything else, must have been such a deep soul connection.

0:30:400:30:44

# He watched the sea claim its prize

0:30:460:30:51

# And sink deep within

0:30:510:30:55

# The king closed his weary eyes

0:30:550:31:00

# Never drank a drop again... #

0:31:000:31:06

I just have this idea of him being someone who was capable

0:31:060:31:09

of understanding the human condition in such a way,

0:31:090:31:13

on such a deep level, that they're able to communicate

0:31:130:31:16

through their art, something that really touches the soul

0:31:160:31:19

of what it means to be human.

0:31:190:31:21

And that's something that never gets old.

0:31:210:31:23

That's why we still love Schubert today.

0:31:230:31:25

That's why people even younger than me

0:31:250:31:27

still get excited about his music.

0:31:270:31:29

FEMALE VOCALIST SINGS THE KING IN THULE IN GERMAN

0:31:290:31:34

SHE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:31:540:31:58

It's good that people have occasions

0:32:050:32:07

to be very concentrated

0:32:070:32:09

on little things, little details.

0:32:090:32:11

SHE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:32:110:32:14

One lied is two minutes, two and a half minutes.

0:32:230:32:27

A little work, a short work, and it opens a world.

0:32:270:32:30

APPLAUSE

0:32:300:32:33

We are in Palermo on the island Sicilia

0:32:460:32:50

to do a one-hour jazz concert.

0:32:500:32:53

It's very exciting. The theatre is amazing -

0:32:560:33:00

one of the most beautiful theatres I have ever been.

0:33:000:33:04

# Smile

0:33:040:33:07

# Though your heart is aching

0:33:070:33:11

# Smile even though it's breaking

0:33:130:33:19

# When there are clouds

0:33:210:33:26

# In the sky... #

0:33:260:33:29

I stopped classical singing four and a half years ago.

0:33:290:33:32

My brother died and I came to the hospital

0:33:330:33:37

when my brother laid in hospital. I had a talk with the doctor

0:33:370:33:42

and two days later, I lost my voice completely

0:33:420:33:44

for nearly more than one year

0:33:440:33:47

and, so that was the only decision,

0:33:470:33:50

to say I have no other chance, to cancel my lied singing career.

0:33:500:33:54

It was sad, but I had to cancel.

0:33:540:33:56

On the other side, I never wanted to be a singer who is on stage

0:33:560:34:02

and, in the front row, my students are sitting and saying,

0:34:020:34:05

"You should hear him four years ago."

0:34:050:34:08

And now I'm on stage again to make jazz music,

0:34:090:34:12

to fulfil my life with wonderful music and wonderful musicians,

0:34:120:34:16

so it's very exciting.

0:34:160:34:18

Buona sera, Palermo.

0:34:190:34:22

APPLAUSE

0:34:220:34:25

To sing jazz is a completely different handling of the voice.

0:34:270:34:31

It's more relaxed.

0:34:310:34:32

You are not really doing this kind of resonant tone.

0:34:320:34:37

It's much more related to the speaking voice

0:34:380:34:41

than to a singing voice.

0:34:410:34:43

THOMAS SCATS

0:34:430:34:46

THOMAS CONTINUES TO SCAT

0:34:550:34:58

As a classical musician,

0:35:060:35:08

you are so much more strict, related on the scores.

0:35:080:35:13

In jazz, you are much more free. You have a theme, you have a text,

0:35:150:35:19

but how you put it in the harmonic system is mostly on yourself.

0:35:190:35:25

# Someday

0:35:340:35:38

# Some way

0:35:390:35:43

# We both have a lifetime before us

0:35:430:35:50

# For parting is not goodbye

0:35:530:36:00

# We'll be together

0:36:030:36:10

# Again

0:36:110:36:20

# We'll be together

0:36:210:36:27

# Again

0:36:280:36:35

# We'll be together again. #

0:36:360:36:45

The fact that I stopped classical singing doesn't mean

0:36:450:36:48

that I'm not loving lied singing any more.

0:36:480:36:51

If you really love someone, even if they are creating problems,

0:36:510:36:56

that doesn't change the love.

0:36:560:36:58

APPLAUSE

0:36:580:37:00

Put the microphones away!

0:37:020:37:04

LAUGHTER OK, a wonderful, wonderful,

0:37:040:37:08

beautiful lullaby song for a little child,

0:37:080:37:12

composed by Johannes Brahms.

0:37:120:37:16

APPLAUSE

0:37:160:37:19

It is a jazz concert,

0:37:190:37:21

but I like to sing a little lied song as an encore.

0:37:210:37:24

And what better than this, the Brahms lullaby?

0:37:240:37:27

THOMAS SINGS IN GERMAN

0:37:290:37:32

After Schubert, there was an explosion of lied composing,

0:38:340:38:38

but one figure towers above all others -

0:38:380:38:41

the enigmatic Johannes Brahms.

0:38:410:38:43

He was from the city of Hamburg in northern Germany

0:38:450:38:48

and his family lived in one of the poorest areas of the old town,

0:38:480:38:52

known as "Speckgang", "Bacon Alley".

0:38:520:38:55

It still has some of the feeling of 19th-century squalor.

0:38:550:39:00

I'm standing in front of the monument of Johannes Brahms

0:39:020:39:06

and behind me was, many years ago, the born house of Johannes Brahms.

0:39:060:39:12

He was born there in 1833.

0:39:120:39:15

I honestly don't know when it was destroyed.

0:39:150:39:19

I guess it was in the Second World War.

0:39:190:39:21

When we turn around a little bit,

0:39:210:39:24

there you see these old buildings still existing.

0:39:240:39:27

To imagine how that looked in the past

0:39:270:39:31

is really very touching and moving.

0:39:310:39:34

And, by the way, it's really cold.

0:39:340:39:36

In the 40 years before his death in 1897,

0:39:390:39:43

Brahms wrote around 200 lieder,

0:39:430:39:46

but the Wiegenlied, Cradle Song, is without doubt, the best known.

0:39:460:39:50

We all hear it as babies.

0:39:500:39:53

To find out more about this song and its composer,

0:39:530:39:56

who never married or had any children,

0:39:560:39:59

I'm visiting the Johannes Brahms Museum.

0:39:590:40:02

This is the story

0:40:040:40:06

of the famous Wiegenlied lullaby.

0:40:060:40:08

In 1859, Brahms founded a women's choir

0:40:080:40:12

and one of the girls was Bertha Porubszky.

0:40:120:40:17

And Brahms took a liking in this wonderful young girl

0:40:170:40:21

and probably was very disappointed,

0:40:210:40:24

-seeing her writing her engagement notes.

-Mm.

0:40:240:40:28

But, a couple of years later, for her second child,

0:40:280:40:32

-he wrote the famous Wiegenlied lullaby.

-Wonderful.

0:40:320:40:38

MUSIC BOX PLAYS WIEGENLIED LULLABY

0:40:380:40:41

Brahms was, for me,

0:40:410:40:43

always my favourite lied composer that I sang in my life.

0:40:430:40:49

And he was a very grounded human being.

0:40:490:40:53

He loved life, he loved wine, he loved women,

0:40:530:40:57

-and I think that's nice.

-I totally agree.

0:40:570:41:00

The more you know about his life, the less you know about him.

0:41:000:41:05

-And, I mean, this unfulfilled love.

-Yes.

0:41:050:41:08

You find this emotion, I think, in many of Brahms' songs, in his work.

0:41:080:41:12

-In his work in general.

-Yeah.

0:41:120:41:14

-Because you never, ever really know if it's minor or it's major.

-Yeah.

0:41:140:41:20

-It's always both. You're never sure.

-Yes, that's completely true.

0:41:200:41:24

And sometimes his music, if you hear it again,

0:41:240:41:28

in another mood, you hear a different song, a different piece.

0:41:280:41:33

-Mm-hmm.

-And Brahms is the only composer where I experience that.

0:41:330:41:38

-Welcome to the club.

-Thank you, sir.

-It's true. Very true.

0:41:380:41:43

THOMAS SINGS IN GERMAN

0:41:480:41:51

Brahms was, for me, always incredibly touching,

0:42:470:42:51

very earth-grounded music, very honest music.

0:42:510:42:55

And maybe it has to do with my own biography

0:42:550:42:59

because when I was young, I had, also, unfulfilled love affairs

0:42:590:43:04

or even affairs that I wanted to start but the girls didn't want,

0:43:040:43:08

so I found myself so much in this music because it was not kitschy.

0:43:080:43:15

It was very honest and natural way of composing,

0:43:150:43:20

which was going very, very deep in my soul,

0:43:200:43:24

and I always had the feeling, during singing,

0:43:240:43:27

that Brahms is one of these composers that I really understood.

0:43:270:43:33

That's a very nice feeling.

0:43:330:43:35

Brahms had a deep love for poetry.

0:43:390:43:42

He would read aloud verses that inspired him over and over again,

0:43:420:43:46

until a song emerged as if spontaneously.

0:43:460:43:49

And one of his greatest lied songs is a setting of words

0:43:500:43:54

by an almost forgotten poet called Baron Detlev von Liliencron.

0:43:540:43:59

Here we are in Hamburg Rahlstedt,

0:44:010:44:04

in a reconstruction of a study from Detlev von Liliencron.

0:44:040:44:08

He was a soldier, he was a lover and a poet.

0:44:080:44:15

In October, 1888, Detlev von Liliencron wrote to a friend...

0:44:150:44:22

"I have just been overwhelmed with huge happiness.

0:44:240:44:28

"Klaus Groth has sent me Opus 105 by Johannes Brahms

0:44:300:44:35

"which includes, can you believe it,

0:44:350:44:38

"Auf Dem Kirchhofe by Detlev von Liliencron.

0:44:380:44:41

"That, for me, is the highest declaration."

0:44:420:44:47

Here, in Hamburg Rahlstedt, you will find, in the cemetery,

0:44:530:44:57

the grave of Detlev von Liliencron.

0:44:570:45:00

VOCALIST SINGS IN GERMAN

0:45:000:45:04

It's a union between the poem and the music.

0:45:420:45:46

I think he catched, in a perfect way,

0:45:460:45:49

the atmosphere of the poem -

0:45:490:45:52

that somebody is standing at the grave and thinking about love

0:45:520:45:55

and a love which is gone,

0:45:550:45:57

and you can hear, not Brahms,

0:45:570:46:00

but the guy who's thinking in this poem.

0:46:000:46:03

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:46:060:46:09

If you have lost people

0:46:260:46:28

and we all had the situation to stay in front of the grave

0:46:280:46:32

and to think about the past,

0:46:320:46:34

it's, for me, one of the most intimate songs that Brahms wrote.

0:46:340:46:39

With Brahms, it was always a very, very deep love affair

0:47:190:47:25

between his incredible, wonderful, glorious music and my small soul.

0:47:250:47:31

SHE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:47:320:47:35

Yeah, and stay in the space.

0:47:410:47:43

-THOMAS REPEATS ONE LINE OF THE SONG

-Yeah.

0:47:430:47:48

SHE STARTS SINGING THE LINE AGAIN

0:47:480:47:50

-THOMAS IMITATES HER SINGING STYLE

-Yeah, yeah.

0:47:500:47:53

Oval.

0:47:530:47:55

SHE CONTINUES SINGING IN GERMAN

0:47:550:47:58

She's a soprano, so I'm forcing

0:48:030:48:05

her that she's lighting up the voice,

0:48:050:48:08

that she sounds like she's not 46. She's 22.

0:48:080:48:13

So, the sound of the voice has to be a sound of a 22-year-old young lady.

0:48:130:48:18

SHE CONTINUES SINGING IN GERMAN

0:48:180:48:22

-Laure, Laure...

-Yeah?

0:48:290:48:31

You look a little bit that the girl is in trouble.

0:48:310:48:33

-Oh, really? OK.

-She isn't.

-No. It's not on purpose.

0:48:330:48:37

If you do this... Relax and do this.

0:48:370:48:39

Yeah, you tense up.

0:48:410:48:42

And you immediately have a tension here on the throat

0:48:420:48:44

which we don't need. Yeah?

0:48:440:48:47

LAURE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:48:490:48:52

She is a singer who really don't need to be forced

0:49:000:49:04

in being expressive. She is.

0:49:040:49:06

LAURE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:49:060:49:10

-Eine frage. Would it be possible to do a little bit more crescendo?

-Yes.

0:49:180:49:22

-Now my question...

-Mm-hmm.

-Is this neutral singing?

0:49:220:49:26

-I think he has a lot of doubt about their relationship.

-Yes.

-Um...

0:49:260:49:32

-You see, I even would doubt that.

-Yeah?

-I think, honestly...

-OK.

0:49:320:49:37

-..that he is not really making many thoughts.

-Yeah, OK.

0:49:370:49:41

It's, "Yes, it's a girl and she's nice and bah."

0:49:410:49:44

But SHE is very intense. She says, "Come on, it's our love", yeah?

0:49:440:49:48

And I don't think that he is with the same intensity in this affair.

0:49:480:49:53

-No, I don't.

-Don't you agree, sir?

-Yes.

-Thank you.

0:49:540:49:57

LAURE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:49:590:50:02

Still soft.

0:50:070:50:09

More.

0:50:110:50:12

More.

0:50:140:50:16

Very good!

0:50:220:50:24

Laure, I love it.

0:50:260:50:27

Take a breath.

0:50:420:50:44

Laure, fantastisch!

0:51:060:51:09

Laure, this is really good. 22! Amazing, isn't it?

0:51:090:51:13

Yeah, very, very good. Wonderful, wonderful. Pure joy.

0:51:130:51:18

It's a strange thing, I think, lieder, in the 21st century.

0:51:200:51:23

For those of us who aren't German speakers, there's something...

0:51:230:51:26

There could be something forbidding

0:51:260:51:28

about a woman or a man singing beside a piano,

0:51:280:51:31

nothing else on stage, and you're expected to be plunged

0:51:310:51:34

into these extraordinary interior worlds of the poems and the songs.

0:51:340:51:38

It's just going back to, like, the crucible of how they happened.

0:51:380:51:41

Schubert and his mates in the living room.

0:51:410:51:43

They're supposed to communicate absolutely directly to us.

0:51:430:51:46

When it works - the poem, the emotion, the text, the music -

0:51:460:51:50

it does produce this extraordinary power.

0:51:500:51:54

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:51:540:51:58

Now it's the rehearsal for the final of the Das Lied competition.

0:52:070:52:12

We started here with 26 duos.

0:52:120:52:14

For this evening, only seven remain.

0:52:140:52:18

I realised that I am momentarily extremely relaxed.

0:52:180:52:22

But for the competitors, it will be a little bit different,

0:52:220:52:26

because they will be very nervous

0:52:260:52:27

and some, also, I think, a little bit frightened.

0:52:270:52:30

But you have to learn to handle your nerves.

0:52:300:52:34

PIANIST BEGINS PLAYING

0:52:340:52:37

SHE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:52:420:52:46

This is, I think, what lied singing is about -

0:52:540:52:58

the excitement of creating a dramatic line

0:52:580:53:02

and make it more dramatic.

0:53:020:53:05

SHE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:53:050:53:07

It's not enough to sing words.

0:53:100:53:13

I think we are painters,

0:53:130:53:15

because I think that the human voice is the most colourful instrument,

0:53:150:53:20

especially comparing to any other instrument on this planet.

0:53:200:53:25

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:53:250:53:28

To go to a lieder recital, you're transported.

0:53:460:53:49

You travel on that journey with the singer, with the pianist,

0:53:490:53:52

with the poet, with the composer.

0:53:520:53:54

And it gives you time to reflect

0:53:540:53:56

on your own life and opportunity to step back

0:53:560:53:59

from everything that's going on in the world.

0:53:590:54:01

APPLAUSE

0:54:010:54:03

Ladies and gentlemen,

0:54:030:54:05

welcome to the final of Das Lied International Song Competition.

0:54:050:54:09

Our first duo is mezzo-soprano Clara Osowski,

0:54:090:54:13

accompanied by Tyler Wottrich.

0:54:130:54:15

SHE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:54:260:54:30

The difficulty for every jury to vote for singers

0:54:420:54:46

is that we have to do with subjective voting,

0:54:460:54:50

so we have to give points for musical presence,

0:54:500:54:55

handling of language, how is the diction.

0:54:550:54:59

SHE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:54:590:55:02

We have little compartments which we tick.

0:55:180:55:21

All that is important,

0:55:210:55:23

but the main thing, for me, is here.

0:55:230:55:26

I just want them to move me.

0:55:260:55:29

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:55:480:55:52

Most of them will not get the prize

0:56:340:56:37

but still, it is very important for everybody,

0:56:370:56:40

because I think everybody's learning something

0:56:400:56:43

about German lied and the soul of the artist.

0:56:430:56:46

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:56:460:56:49

I hope that we find, for the awarding,

0:57:090:57:13

good and great pianists and the singers,

0:57:130:57:15

where I can stand, also, behind and say,

0:57:150:57:18

"Yeah, we can send you in the world and being a very good advertiser,

0:57:180:57:23

"first for our competition,

0:57:230:57:24

"and second for the lied singing in general."

0:57:240:57:27

Lied singing is a living art form.

0:57:290:57:31

Well done, team!

0:57:310:57:34

But to keep it alive, we need three things.

0:57:340:57:37

We already have these thousands of wonderful songs

0:57:380:57:42

and the singers and pianists who can perform them

0:57:420:57:45

as beautifully as they deserve.

0:57:450:57:47

But without you, an audience who are coming to concert halls

0:57:490:57:52

to share this experience, there would be no future for lied song.

0:57:520:57:57

It means a lot to me because it's poetry and music

0:57:580:58:01

coming together and creating something

0:58:010:58:03

even higher than both of that,

0:58:030:58:05

so basically lied. It's great music. I love it.

0:58:050:58:08

Thank you for following our lied journey.

0:58:090:58:12

Maybe you see how wonderful this profession is

0:58:120:58:17

and how many talented young people we have

0:58:170:58:20

who are really going to succeed in this musical world.

0:58:200:58:24

Thank you very much again, and I hope you liked it.

0:58:240:58:27

HE SINGS IN GERMAN

0:58:290:58:32

Thomas Quasthoff, one of the premier baritones of his generation, presents his personal guide to the love of his life, the German Lied song. Drawing on his multiple roles as maestro, teacher and founder of an international Lied singing competition, professor Quasthoff goes on a personal journey into this short, domestic but intensely expressive art form.

Lied means 'song' in the German Language and Lieder are poems of nature, love, and death set for solo voice and a piano. Quasthoff used to sing these songs around the world and now he has turned from practitioner to teacher, passing on this two century old tradition to a new generation of young singers.

With a wide range of contributors, including musicians and academics, there is a focus on Franz Schubert as the first great Lieder writer. In the early 19th century Schubert, who died tragically young, seized the new possibilities of the piano and created over 600 songs. Thomas unlocks the factors that then came together to create an explosion of Lieder: the rise of the German Romanticism and the role that personal, emotional poetry played in the homes of the growing German middle class, the spectacular popularity of the domestic piano and an emerging philosophical imperative to explore the soul.

Lied is the most intimate music of the great composers and in Hamburg Quasthoff goes looking for Johannes Brahms, a composer he feels a great empathy with, and discovers the grave of an almost forgotten poet who inspired a masterpiece of Lied song.

The documentary goes to Heidelberg where Quasthoff chairs the Das Lied International song competition - here 26 young Lied singers and their pianists spend five days performing before an international Jury, including singers Brigitte Fassbaender, Bernarda Fink and Dame Felicity Lott.

The programme includes rare archive of Thomas Quasthoff before his retirement from the classical stage, performing with pianist AndrĂ¡s Schiff in 2003 as well as a newly restored telerecording of Quasthoff's Lied singing hero: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. In the most personal section of the film Quasthoff takes a late night vocal excursion to the island of Sicily.


Download Subtitles

SRT

ASS