Thomas Quasthoff (born Hildesheim, Germany, 9 November 1959) is a German bass-baritone. He is thought of as one of the best singers of today. It was not easy for him to get a good musical education because of his physical disability. However, he has became one of the world’s finest singers of German song (Lieder) and he also sings a wide variety of styles including Baroque music, opera and jazz.
Quasthoff was born in Hildesheim, Germany. His mother had been taking the drug thalidomide during the pregnancy and this resulted in Thomas being born with physical handicaps. He has flipper-like hands and no arms, and he has very short legs.
Quasthoff wanted to study music at the conservatory, but he was not allowed to do so because there was a rule that every music student had to play the piano. It was impossible for Quasthoff to play an instrument because of his disability.
Quasthoff decided to study singing privately. After he had graduated from school he went to university to study law. He did not enjoy the subject, and after studying for three years he chose music as a career. At first he worked as a radio announcer. He got some experience in singing oratorio. Then, in 1988, he won the ARD International Music Competition in Munich. Many people, including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, were very impressed with his singing. He became known as a Lieder singer. He first sang in America in 1995. He won many awards, including the Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance in 2000. It was for his performance together with the mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter of Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn. They were accompanied by the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Claudio Abbado. He won prizes for his singing of songs by Schubert, Brahms and Liszt, and Bach Cantatas.
Quasthoff teaches singing at the Hanns Eisler School of Music in Berlin. He is "artist in residence" at the Barbican Hall, London. A series called "Die Stimme" (The Voice) was made to celebrate his 50th birthday. It was also the title of his autobiography which was published in 2006.