* HOTTER, Hans(19th Jan. 1909 ~ 6th Dec. 2003)
[ The eternal Wotan in Bayreuth ]
to 'Classical Music',
Vol.4(Feb. 1997), p.202~7
Partially corrected on Jul. & Aug. 2001, 2003
1. Curriculum Vitae
[ Left Photo ] Hans Hotter(from Toshiba-EMI's Seraphim LP release)
Recently, because the importance of the poem(text) in German Lied is so frequently said, everybody tends to forget when it is considered important. This concept prevails only from 20th century. In this point, two famous singer are eminent - of course Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. However, not being more famous, there was a senior artist to them. An aristocrat of German bass-bariton called 'the eternal Wotan in Bayreuth', Hans Hotter.
He was born in Offenbach, Germany. He moved to
Munich(mother's native city) when young after losing father. He
learned piano, and singed in a church choral. He was moved at
church music, so studied it so that he would be an organist and
chorus master. But his natural beautiful voice made Matthäus
Römer(Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival 1909, pupil of the
famous artist Jean de Retzke) regard him. He taught Hans singing.
Hans entered Munich Music Conservatory, and there learned vocal
music, piano and organ, and at Munich university philosophy and
musicology. He was taught acting by the director of Munich opera.
His début was the understudy of bass solist in Messiah. and that of opera theatre the Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte. We can hear this role by the record with Böhm(DG). At first his activity was at Prag and Breslau(now in Poland), from 1934 to 1938 at Hamburg Opera, and at 1939 he contracted with Vienna State Opera. I heard he was honoured by Kammersänger of the opera at the same year. His first appearance at Munich Opera was at 1937, and continued it to 1972(Fairwell appearance).
After the WWII, his fame was spread internationally. In the 1947 London trip of the Vienna State Opera, he was unanimously praised as the title role of Don Giovanni and launched the recordings with EMI. The next year he sang Sachs in Die Meistersinger in London, after which he was invited by Covent Garden every year. He was revered as Wagnerian from then on. From 1950, he appeared at Metropolitan. Above all, his summit was the Bayreuth period from 1952 to 1966. His début was Wotan and Kurwenal(Tristan und Isolde), and his most famous role was the supreme Wotan. His Wagner roles included Sachs, Pogner(Die Meistersinger), Amfortas, Gurnemanz, Titurel(Parsifal), König Marke, Holländer; almost all of the Wagner bass-bariton roles. He appeared once more at Bayreuth in 1968 as stage director of Wieland Wagner's postumous Ring.
Except Wagner role, his opera repertoires included very various roles from Mozart to Berg and Schonberg. His Count(Le Nozze di Figaro) was almost legendary by the perfectness. Sprecher and Don Giovanni were his famous Mozart roles. His other famous roles are Olivier(Capriccio), Borromeo(Palestrina), the Grand Inquisitor, Boris Godounov(title role). In special, the legendary bass Chaliapin taught him the Boris role at his Prag period. Therefore, it had been Hotter's most confident role.
His main activity after 1970 was changed to the lied and stage production. His lied repertoires are somewhat less than those of Fischer-Dieskau(I guess it is because his voice was nearer to bass register), but not less than those of any other opera singers. His lied recordings include Loewe, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, and R.Strauss - all of the great lied composers. Richard Strauss himself taught Hotter, after Hotter sang his works at the composer's 80th anniversary concert(1944). Hotter was invited at the concert.
His official retirement appearance at opera stage was in Vienna, as the Grand Inquisitor(Don Carlos). But after it, he sometimes returned by small parts. His Schigolch(Lulu) was critically acclaimed.
His recent news are rare ; in 1992, he and Birgit Nilsson gave Georg Solti the birthday present(80th birthday) at the party at Covent Garden. I read an interview article last year. His recent look can be seen in a webpage(see below). He appeared at stage even at 84(as Schigolch or speaker in Mose und Aaron), passed away on 6th Dec. 2003 at his home of suburb of Munich.
Hotter's studio recordings are not much in spite of
his fame. Live recordings are more frequent, but many of them
have bad sound quality. His Wotan can be heard by three
set ; 1953 & 1956 Bayreuth live(Knappertsbusch and Clemens
Krauss conducting), and the famous Solti's Decca recording. In
this set, because George London was casted at Das Rheingold,
only Die Walküre(1965) and Siegfried(1962) are
his Wotan. It's not necessary for me to explain this recording.
His voice was more or less old, but expressive and strong tone is
very good for this role. Other Wagner roles are Gurnemanz
in Knappertsbusch's 1962 Bayreuth live(Philips), and Pogner
in Keilberth's Eurodisc recording. Some of other Bayreuth lives
can be seen, and his Wotan in Rheingold was newly issued by
Testament(conducted by Keilberth, 1955 live stereo). Other roles
except Wagner are Sprecher in Die Zauberflöte(DG;
with Böhm), and Die Frau ohne Schatten(DG; with Böhm).
His lied recordings are not so much as the vast amounts of those of Fischer-Dieskau, but the most of them is recorded at his summit. His darker voice can be better choice than Fischer-Dieskau. In the recordings of Winterreise, Hotter's are surely comparable to Fischer-Dieskau's by my taste. It was surely his favorite. He recorded it four times, three in studio and one by live. Schwanegesang(EMI, with Moore) is deserved to be chosen as one of his best recording. Other CD titles are Schubert, Schumann, and R.Strauss recital(EMI), Brahms' recital including The 4 serious song(EMI), Dichterliebe(Preiser), Wolf and Loewe lieds(EMI), the art of Hans Hotter I & II(Decca). By effort of the Testament label, most of the EMI lied recordings are available now. Moreover, DG released his Winterreise with Werba and Decca recordings as Original Masters series(but now deleted as of 2007). Therefore, his lieds are much easier to get than several years ago, which pleased me much as a fan of his.
Other solo works are EMI's two records of Beethoven's Choral symphony(one by Karajan, with VPO, 1947, and the other by Klemperer with Philharmonia, 1957), Brahms' German Requiem by Karajan(with VPO, EMI, 1947), and Bach's Cantata No.82(EMI).
[ Right photo ; Hans Hotter as Wotan, from Hans Hotter Documentary ]
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Created ; 29th
(original Korean text created 8th Aug. 2001)
Last update ; 5th Jun. 2007