Matthias Goerne established a successful career as a baritone in Germany in the early '90s and has expanded it to major appearances in other European countries and on recordings. His operatic experience began early, as a member of the City Opera in Weimar. His performances are notable for the warmth of his voice and the depth of his interpretations. He began professional-level voice training in 1985 with Hans Beyer in Leipzig, then continuing his studies with both Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. His taking second prize in the Robert Schumann Competition of 1989, and first prizes in the Lindberg Salomon and Hugo Wolf competitions led to his being invited to sing in the Bach St. Matthew Passion in Leipzig in 1990 with conductor Kurt Masur. Other early appearances were with the NDR Radio Symphony Orchestra Hamburg, and the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. Fischer-Dieskau recommended him for the Hindemith Requiem for Those We Love under Wolfgang Sawallisch.
He has become a notable Mahler interpreter, singing Des Knaben Wunderhorn with the Berlin RSO under Vladimir Ashkenazy and as a last-minute replacement for Fischer-Dieskau in Kindertotenlieder. Another notable part of his concert repertory is the Brahms German Requiem, in which he debuted, also on short notice, with Claus Peter Flor conducting in Zurich.
One of his earliest operatic successes came in 1992, when he sang the title role in Hans Werner Henze's The Prince of Homburg in a new production at Cologne. His Berlin Deutsche Oper debut was in a more traditional role for a young baritone, Marcello in Puccini's La bohème. Since the 1993-1994 season he has been a member of the Dresden State Opera. In 2002, he debuted at Covent Garden as Wozzeck.
His first London appearance was at Wigmore Hall in 1994. He was invited back to that venue for the opening concert of the 1995-1996 season, and five days later sang another solo recital there, accompanied by Graham Johnson, which received rave reviews. Since then, he has increased his activities as a singer of the German lieder repertory throughout Europe, usually accompanied by pianist Eric Schneider. He frequently broadcasts on German radio, and has recorded for the Hänssler, Berlin Classics, and Decca (London) labels, appearing on the latter in the important "Entartete Musik" series. He has participated in three volumes of the Hyperion series of the complete Schubert songs, including the disc devoted to Der Winterreise. His talent in lieder repertoire led to his appointment as professor of lied interpretation at the Robert-Schumann-Hochschule in Düsseldorf in 1991, where he served until 1995. In 2008 he began recording an 11-disc series, The Goerne/Schubert Edition, for Harmonia Mundi.