Born in 1967 into a musical family in a tiny Catholic town in Germany, he sang in the church choir from the age of seven and gained his musical education at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis early music conservatory in Basel, Switzerland.
He catapulted to fame in 1993, when he stood in for renowned countertenor Rene Jacobs at Theatre Grevin in Paris and caused a sensation. Since then, he has been touring the world with recitals and participating in various baroque opera productions. In London, on September 10, 2005, Scholl sang at The Last Night of the Proms, the closing concert of the world’s biggest classical music festival. Until then, no countertenor had ever been invited to sing at this event. The worldwide audience listening through TV, radio and the Internet has been estimated at 400 million people, and most critics agreed that “Scholl stole the show.”
Speaking over the phone from his home in Germany, Scholl acknowledges that countertenors are becoming increasingly popular nowadays.
“Countertenor is a relatively new type of sound that attracts people – this is not an operatic tenor, which we know from thousands of recordings. Also, countertenor transcends a threshold – here is a man who sings as high as a woman, but not like a woman,” he accentuates.
His repertoire includes more than baroque, since nowadays contemporary composers write for countertenors.
Recently, he world premiered Stabat Mater, composed “by my Italian friend, Marco Rosano.”
ASIDE FROM his busy performing career, Scholl teaches music, “and I really enjoy it; I do it because I love it,” he says. “I teach for several reasons, and one of them is quite egoistical: Teaching helps me to become a better singer. As a young singer, I sang instinctively, although I had studied technique… But then you find yourself in a hall with terrible acoustics or you are a little cold or tired – and then your instincts are not of much use to you.
“When I teach, I cannot just sing in front of my students, telling them: ‘Do as I do.’ I need to analyze my singing. And I have realized that this amount of feeling, thinking and talking, which I do for my students, made my own technique far more solid.”
Another reason for teaching is moral: “I see teaching as a mission. I have a gift, but I believe that this gift is also an obligation – to teach my students to sing better and maybe even to accept my philosophy, which says that music and arts in general are very important for human development.”
Scholl says that when he first came to Tel Aviv more than 10 years ago, he immediately felt that “there is something fascinating about the city. Architecturally speaking, this is not Rome or Paris, but it has amazing energy, you can feel it in the street.”
He gave his first concert in Tel Aviv, where he was warmly welcomed by the audience and the local music organizers, and then “discovered a lot of love of music in the Jerusalem Music Center,” where he will teach for his third time.
In his Tel Aviv recital, Scholl will be accompanied by Israeli pianist/harpsichordist Tamar Halperin, who is also his girlfriend. The latter fact, he insinuates, makes his connection to Israel even stronger. “Last year, we were invited to a local wedding, which gave me an opportunity to become acquainted with a non-musical life of Tel Aviv,” he adds.
Scholl describes the program of the concert as a slight departure from a traditional countertenor evening. It will feature lute songs by John Dowland – played on harpsichord – pieces by Henry Purcell, Haydn and Beethoven, and also folk songs, arranged by Halperin for the piano, which “are quite contemporary and jazzy.”
“Singing in small halls is a special experience for both singer and audience,” says Scholl. “Here the contact between us is far more direct and intimate.”
Jan. 22, 2009
MAXIM REIDER , THE JERUSALEM POST