Baritone Christian Gerhaher had a meteoric rise after his 1998 victory in the New York/Paris-shared Prix International Pro Musicis. Gerhaher subsequently developed a major career on both the operatic and recital stages. His repertory takes in J.S. Bach cantatas and oratorios; operas by Mozart, von Weber, and Wagner; lieder by Schubert, Brahms, and Mahler; and concert works by Haydn, Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Mahler. But he has hardly restricted himself to the German sphere, having performed Orff's Carmina Burana, Britten's War Requiem, Monteverdi's Orfeo, and much else. Gerhaher possesses a very distinct, attractive voice, a bit higher in the baritone range than is usual. He has performed at many of the major recital halls and operatic venues, and with an extensive list of conductors that includes Harnoncourt, Rattle, Muti, Colin Davis, Marriner, Pinnock, Herreweghe, Inbal, and Conlon. Gerhaher's résumé, apart from his considerable musical activity, is impressive: he holds a doctorate degree in medicine and has extensively studied philosophy.
Christian Gerhaher was born in the Bavarian city of Straubing on July 24, 1969. His major educational activity was in Munich: he studied voice with Paul Kuen and Raimund Grumbach and enrolled at the Musikhochschule Opera School there, simultaneously studying medicine and philosophy. Gerhaher later took master classes with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. For Gerhaher, 1998 was a pivotal year: he obtained his medical degree, won the Prix International Pro Musicis, and joined the Stadttheater Würzburg, remaining a member until 2000. Meanwhile, he began making critically acclaimed appearances in lieder repertory with pianist Gerold Huber, including at Carnegie Hall, the Schubertiade in Feldkirch, and Wigmore Hall in London. Gerhaher quickly built a reputation in opera as well: his 2005 performance at the Frankfurt Opera in the title role of Orfeo drew rave notices. In the following season, Gerhaher appeared in Schubert's opera Alphonso und Estrella in Berlin and Schumann's oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri in Munich. Gerhaher's 2007-2008 schedule included a highly acclaimed North American tour with pianist Gerold Huber. Gerhaher's later recordings include the 2008 CD on Hänssler Classics of Britten's War Requiem, with conductor Helmuth Rilling leading the Stuttgart Festival Ensemble.
As Gerhaher entered middle age and his voice deepened somewhat, he took on operatic roles such as Wolfram in Wagner's Tannhäuser, which he performed at London's Covent Garden in 2010 and reprised at the Bavarian State Opera in 2017. His performances of Mahler's Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Kindertotenlieder deepened his relationship with Huber, which was displayed to fine effect in their 2017 recording of the unusual Brahms song set Die schöne Magelone, Op. 33. Nevertheless, the bulk of Gerhaher's recording energies in the 2010s have continued to focus on the lieder repertory. His 2012 album, Ferne Geliebte, featuring not only the Beethoven cycle An die ferne Geliebte, Op. 98, but also songs by Haydn, Schoenberg, and Berg, inaugurated a multi-year relationship with the Sony Classical label that has also produced Nachtviolen (a Schubert song recital) and an album of Mozart arias. Gerhaher teaches at Munich's Hochschule für Musik. ~ Robert Cummings & James Manheim