Tall, shy, and bespectacled, with a love of motorbikes, windsurfing, and pop music, Andreas Scholl is an unlikely international musical superstar. But in the world of classical music, he is often called the Clark Kent of countertenors. His high, falsetto voice has been described as pure, beautiful, flexible, rich, with crystalline translucent purity. Scholl has won numerous awards for his singing and is in great demand on the concert circuit and has a personal following. In an Electronic Telegraph, Matthew Rye wrote: “Andreas has rapidly risen to become the most sought-after countertenor in the business, the figurehead for what might be described as a new international countertenor phenomenon.”
Andreas Scholl was born on November 10, 1967, in Eltville, Germany, and grew up in Kiedrich im Rheingau, Germany. This Catholic town, with a population of 4,000, is in a wine-growing area near Wiesbaden. The famous Gothic church there contains the relics of St. Valentine and has the oldest playable organ in Germany. Scholl’s father, Christian, is a merchant and a tenor, a term describing what is usually considered the highest natural adult male voice. Scholl’s sister, Elisabeth, is a well-known soprano singer (soprano refers to the highest natural human voice, usually sung by women and young boys). His brother, Johannes, a doctor, is an amateur baritone (mid-range male voice). Another sister, Christine, who died in her twenties, was also a singer.
When he was seven years old, Scholl began attending the Kiedricher Chorbuben, a boys’ choir school, where his father and grandfather had also been pupils. The school specializes in Baroque and Renaissance music. Scholl spent ten years in the school and there gained an appreciation for sacred music. When he was 13 years old, he sang at the Wiesbaden Staatstheater and gave a solo performance in Rome, after which he met the Pope. Even after his voice changed at age 13, Scholl continued to sing as a countertenor, an adult male voice with a range above that of a tenor, a rather unusual thing.
In an interview with iclassics.com, Scholl said, “Singing is just very natural; I’ve always done it, every day, and I’ve always enjoyed it. So I never questioned it. And it was part of our community activity where I grew up. My friends and I would play soccer in the afternoons and then go to singing lessons.… There was music in the house all the time when I was growing up. I still sing with my family.”
Scholl was interested in pop music and electronics as a teen. He and a friend wrote and recorded some pop songs and performed at rock festivals. When he was 17, Scholl thought about becoming a professional singer but also considered becoming a priest or a soldier. Although he spent two years in the German army, his poor eyesight prevented him from pursuing a more serious military career.
As a young man, Scholl contacted Rene Jacobs, the Belgian countertenor and conductor, to find out if Jacobs thought Scholl should pursue a musical career. Scholl sang for him, overcoming a sense of embarrassment that in his choir the students had learned music by heart and were not taught to read music. Jacobs was impressed with his singing, however, and offered Scholl a place at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, the early music conservatory in Basel, Switzerland. Jacobs became Scholl’s friend and mentor. Beginning in 1987, Richard Levitt was his voice coach. The violinist Chiara Banchini and the soprano Emma Kirkby greatly influenced Scholl as he studied Baroque music (European music from about 1600 to 1750). Scholl earned a Diploma of Ancient Music and won many prestigious prizes. He eventually taught at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, taking over from Levitt in October 2000.
Scholl began performing professionally in 1993 when, with very little notice, he filled in for Jacobs, who had become ill. This Paris performance of Bach’s St. John Passion, broadcast on radio, was Scholl’s first international recital. The well-known conductor William Christie heard the performance and by chance met Scholl on a train shortly thereafter. In 1994 Scholl recorded Handel’s Messiah with Christie, a recording that launched the singer’s professional career. After that, Scholl worked with many conductors of Baroque music, recording Italian, German, and English Baroque music.
Scholl first sang opera in 1998 in the United Kingdom, playing Bertarido in Handel’s Rodelinda. This
Born on November 10, 1967, in Eltville, Germany; son of Christian (a merchant) and Wilma; married Joelle, 1998; divorced, 2002; children: Clara. Education: Graduated from the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Basel, Switzerland, with a Diploma of Ancient Music, 1993.
Began singing in the Kiedricher Chorbuben choir, age seven; gave first international recital, 1993; recorded Handel’s Messiah, 1994; gave first operatic performance, 1998; signed with Decca Records, 1998; sang at the royal wedding in Belgium, 1999; succeeded Richard Levitt at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, 2000; recorded English folksongs, 2001.
Awards: Conseil de I’Europe and the Foundation Claude Nicolas Ledoux, 1992; Grammophone Award for Vivaldi: Stabat Mater, 1996; Cannes Classical Award for English folk and lute songs, 1998; German Kultur Radio Artist of the Year, 1998; Echo Classic Award for Best Newcomer Performance for Heroes, 1999; Prix de I’Union de la Presse musicale belge (Belgium Music Press), Young Musician of the Year, 1999; Dutch Edison Award for Vivaldi: Nisi Dominus in the category of public nomination, 2001.
Addresses: Record company —Decca Records/Universal, 1755 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, phone: (212) 333-8000, website: http://www.deccaclassics.com/artists/scholl/index.asp. Management —c/o Ian Stones, Harrison Parrott Limited, 12 Penzance Place, London, Wll 4PA, UK, e-mail: [email protected] parrott.co.uk.
performance garnered him much praise. That year he also sang at the BBC Promenade Concerts, also called the Proms, a well-known annual music festival in London. He eventually became a regular performer at the Proms. Scholl also sings throughout Europe, the United States, Australia, and Asia.
Scholl has recorded many CDs, first with Sony Music and several smaller labels and then with Harmonia Mundi. By 1998 his recordings were ranked at numbers one, three, four, five, and ten on Harmonia Mundi’s hit list. Scholl signed with Decca Records in 1998. Scholl especially enjoys performing the works of Handel and Bach, the works of whom he finds the most difficult yet most rewarding. He also has branched out from Baroque music and in 2001 recorded a CD of English, American, and Irish folksongs. Scholl prefers performing before a live audience rather than working in a recording studio, and he enjoys singing with others as much as singing solo. Besides classical music, Scholl appreciates Latin, jazz, soul, funk, and pop music, and he has recorded some of these forms of music in his own recording studio at his home in Basel, Switzerland. A religious man, Scholl believes that the purpose of music is to praise God and to move and teach people.
In an interview with iclassics.com, Scholl noted, “You can appreciate some music better after you get into it a little bit. I’m more interested in baseball now that I know the basic rules—the same is true for music. Learning a little about basic principles makes it possible to listen with more interest, and after a while you may even develop a passion for it. The point is, the way to access music is to use our brains—to engage with it, focus on it, pay attention to it. Then it can really relax us. When you read a book, your imagination gets involved. It’s the same with music. We think ‘background music’ is the relaxing way of using music, but it’s not. That’s intoxication, not relaxation.”
In 2002 Scholl spent his time teaching and performing in Handel’s operas Rodelinda and Giulio Cesare.
Deutsche Barocklieder, Harmonia Mundi, 1995.
Vivaldi: Stabat Mater, Harmonia Mundi, 1995.
(With Andreas Martin) English Folksongs & Lute Songs, Harmonia Mundi, 1996.
J. S. Bach: Cantatas for Alto, Harmonia Mundi, 1998.
Kantate: German Baroque Cantatas, Harmonia Mundi, 1998.
(With the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) Heroes (Gluck, Handel, Hasse, Mozart), Decca, 1999.
Vivaldi: Nisi Dominus, Decca, 2000.
The Voice: Andreas Scholl, Harmonia Mundi, 2000.
Andreas Scholl—A Musicall Banquet, Decca, 2001.
Wayfaring Stranger, Decca, 2001.
Electronic Telegraph, August 21, 1999.
Executive Lifestyle, January 22, 2000.
New Statesman, July 19, 1999, p. 39
Opera News, December 1999, p. 6; October 2000, p. 62; March 2001, p.74; February 2002, p. 73.
Times (London, England), June 9, 1999.
“Andreas Scholl,” iclassics.com, http://www.iclassics.com/iclassics/artists_result.jsp?entityld=1274 (July 23, 2002).
The Andreas Scholl Society, http://www.andreasschollsociety.scholl.com/biography.htm (April 28, 2002).
"Scholl, Andreas." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (February 14, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/scholl-andreas
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