Holger Falk Availability
July 4–14, 2020
Second half of March 2021
Fall 2021 | Spring 2022
What the critics say:
“…an afternoon of unforgettable music making.”
— The Washington Post
“one of the most intellectually and vocally flexible singers on the German stage today.”
“Falk displayed a masterful ability to create a distinct mood, atmosphere, and personality for each [Schubert songs].”
— Opera News (NY)
“Falk commands an impressive vocal instrument, and uses it completely in the service of the poetic texts. Now he’s declamatory. Now he whispers intimately to the audience. Now he floats a tone of gossamer loveliness…”
“Falk’s powers of portrayal are sensational, and he has found an equal partner in pianist Steffen Schleiermacher.”
— Die Zeit (Eisler, Volume 3)
“A thrilling listening experience!’
— Stuttgarter Zeitung (Eisler Volume 3)
“In comparing it to the recordings of Fischer-Dieskau with Aribert Reimann and Matthias Goerne with Eric Schneider, this recording with its 53 tracks and 80 minutes is in first place.”
— Fono Forum (Eisler, Volume 3)
“Holger Falk and his accompanist [Steffen Schleiermacher] present the wide range of styles with amazing precision, and show with boundless energy that in this art it is more than just about art.”
— Berliner Zeitung (Eisler Volume 2)
“A thrilling listening experience!”
— Stuttgarter Zeitung (Eisler Volume 3)
“…soft, even in the extreme upper register, a fabulously pleasing baritone.”
— The Frankfurter Allgemeine
His voice “… nothing less than an experience,” and his expressive capabilities “superb.”
— Fono Forum
“This magnificent singer-actor and interpretive extremist, spurred on by pianist Steffen Schleiermacher, dares to take it to the vocal limits and wins – Outstanding!”
— Muenchner Merkur (Eisler recording, Vol I)
Winner Echo Klassik 2018
Opus Klassik 2019:
Singer of the Year and
recording of the year
“The appeal of the songs is high, Venice seems to come out here as the birthplace of the hit. Holger Falk, equally in demand as an opera singer and Lied interpreter finds exactly the right tone for this music with a light sound that unites simplicity and sweetness in his almost tenor timbre. He is particularly magical in the slightly trashy “La biondina in gondoletta” about a gondola trip with a pretty blonde, whose bosoms are unveiled by a light breeze.”
— The Hamburger Abenblatt
Il Gondiliere Veneziano
“Everyone sings in Venice—on the squares, in the streets, and on the canals! The merchant sings as he does business, the worker on his way to work, and the gondolier while he waits for his boss.”
Thus a historian described the sound landscape of Baroque Venice.
A central part of this sound picture was the “Canzoni da battello” or “Barcarole” that enjoyed immense popularity until the end of the 19th century. Even Mozart was enchanted on a stop in Venice by a “canto da gondola” which he chanced to hear in a laguna. In the middle of the 17th century this genre enjoyed its greatest popularity, a mixture of popular and high culture, in both Italian as well as in the Venetian dialect. In 1742, the famous English printer John Walsh published a collection of these canzoni in London. Its great success led Walsh to publish an additional two volumes of these canzoni. For the present program a selection of canzoni published by Walsh were chosen, whose source is a copy of the first edition found in the Biblioteca del Civico Instituto Musicale Donizetti in Bergamo.
In the program, Il Gondiliere Veneziano, these baroque songs are connected to the sound landscape of today’s Venice in an exceptional way. Since the songs of the gondolieris are not traditionally sung in a closed concert hall, but spontaneously in the open and—from the beginning—have been linked to the everyday sounds of the city, specially developed soundscapes are the bridge to historic and present-day Venice. One can paint a picture of how the songs in those days echoed in the tight canals against the high walls, mixed with the murmuring conversation of the passengers, the moaning of oarlocks, and the sound of water striking the bow. The sound that occurs when the singing gondolier, with his gondola, travels under a bridge. Or the sounds that occur when the rocking boat goes from a quiet canal into the open harbor where merchants loudly call out their wares, where large ships are anchored, and where wares are loaded onto carts.
As once before, these everyday sounds inspire new interpretations of songs of the gondoliers. At the same time the daily soundscapes are influenced by the music when in a type of sound metamorphosis they—in reference to the music of the gondolier—turn into music themselves. The result is a musical walk through Venice that invites the audience to take a seat in the gondola: church bells, voices, the sound of Venetian squares, the acoustical intimacy of a maze of passages, water, waves, and the beating of the oar all surround the songs of the gondolier.
“Intellectually and vocally, Holger Falk. baritone, is one of the most flexible singers on the German stage,” according to the magazine Opernwelt while The Washington Post recently wrote, “Falk has an extraordinarily flexible baritone, with a warm, confiding lower and midrange … and … is able to characterize every word so vividly that, if he were singing in Vedic Sanskrit, you’d get the message. It is this colorfulness, flexibility and authenticity in his expression that are the artistic sources of his international career as an opera singer as well as an interpreter of the art song.
His opera engagements have taken him to the Théâtre de la Monnaie, Brussels, Théâtre Champs Elysées, Paris, Teatro Real, Madrid, Bavarian State Opera, Munich, the Hamburg State Opera, Theater an der Wien, National Opera, Warsaw, Opera Frankfurt, the Boston Early Music Festival, and to numerous other German opera houses. He has worked with outstanding conductors such as Christopher Hogwood, Gabriel Garrido, Franck Ollu, Konrad Junghänel and Stephen Stubbs. Recent and upcoming opera projects were the main role of Jean-Charles in the premiere of Das Floss der Medusa by Henze at the Ruhr Triennale (August/September 2018); the part of Lord Byron in the world premiere of Michael Wertmueller’s Diodati at Theater Basel between February and April 2019; and Ein Brief (A Letter), an opera for baritone, string quartet and orchestra by Manfred Trojahn on a text written by Hugo von Hofmannsthal in the form of a letter by the fictional Lord Chandos to Sir Francis Bacon—the world premiere will be at Opera Bonn and at Theater an der Wien in February 2020.
As an interpreter of the Lied, Holger has appeared at numerous festivals, including at the Philharmonie Cologne, Gewandhaus, Leipzig, Konzerthaus, Berlin, Elbphilharmonie, Hamburg, Franz Liszt Academy, Budapest, Opéra de Rouen, Schleswig Holstein Music Festival, Dresdner Musikfestspiele, Berliner Festspiele, Steirischer Herbst Graz and the Rheingau-Musikfestival. In 2015 he was invited to the Festival Sindnoch Lieder zu singen, produced by the Hugo Wolf Society and the Bundeskulturstiftung, to create the future of the German Lied. Following his Canadian debut with Steffen Schleiermacher as accompanist at the Music and Beyond Festival in Ottawa in July 2018, Holger—accompanied by Julius Drake, piano—in October 2018 made his New York, Cleveland, and Washington debuts atThe Frick Collection, for the Cleveland Chamber Music Society, and at the Phillips Collection respectively.
For his performances and recordings, Holger has received a number of nominations. In 2017 he was nominated by Opernwelt for the Singer of the Year award for two roles. He is the winner of the 2016 Echo Klassik award for his recording Erik Satie: Intégrale des Mélodies et Chansons. As a specialist for Francis Poulenc’s Mélodies, he recorded a three-CD complete oeuvre of all 115 Mélodies for male voice (MDG).
His rich discography further includes Rihm Lieder (MDG), Schubert Schwanengesang, J. Hauer Lieder nach Hölderlin (MDG) and the opera recording of Peter Eötvös’s Paradise reloaded. In March 2017 Songs und Balladen 1929-1937 was the first release of a four-CD collection of songs by Hanns Eisler (with Steffen Schleiermacher, piano), which since has been followed by the release of two additional volumes. These first three Eisler volumes have received tremendous attention and, so far, have been collectively awarded the prestigious 2017 Annual German Record Reviewer’s Prize, the 2017 Gramophone Editor’s Choice Award, a nomination for the 2018 Gramophone Award, a nomination for the 2018 International Music Award, as well as the nomination for the 2018 German Record Reviewers’ Prize. His latest nominations are for Singer of the Year and Recording of the Year by the Opus Klassik Award 2019.
In March of 2019 Holger Falk took on the position of Professor or Lied Interpretation and Performance Practice of Contemporary Music for singers at the University of Arts in Graz.
Holger began singing as a boy with the famous Regensburg Cathedral Boys’ Choir, followed by voice studies at the Würzburg Conservatory, in Milan. with Prof. Sigune von Osten, Franco Corelli and with Neil Serner, among others.
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More what the critics say:
For the Lied
“Those fortunate enough to have been at the Phillips Collection Sunday afternoon heard what I suspect may be the outstanding song recital of the season. The perpetrators were the German baritone Holger Falk, in his Washington debut, and British pianist Julius Drake. Their artfully conceived German and French program, Schubert and Hanns Eisler on the first half, Francis Poulenc and Erik Satie on the second. combined subtlety and power in a breathtaking display of ensemble virtuosity in captivating music.”
— Washington Post
“Falk commands an impressive vocal instrument, and uses it completely in the service of the poetic texts. Now he’s declamatory. Now he whispers intimately to the audience. Now he floats a tone of gossamer loveliness. Now he sings with a grotesque tone (perfect for Satie’s La grenouille americaine). He is also an actor—and a bit of a ham—who can imitate a kazoo (Satie’s Enfant martyre) or whistle while dancing into the aisle (Satie’s Rambouillet). He has particular fun with Satie, and who wouldn’t.”
“ ‘Songs’—too harmless a term. Summons, accusations, shouts—all this from the smug to the harshly grotesque, those are the songs of Hanns Eisler (1898-1962) on the texts of Brecht and Tucholsky. That the days of going on the barricades are not over is demonstrated here by Holger Falk in the opening of a complete cycle. This magnificent singer-actor and interpretive extremist, spurred on by pianist Steffen Schleiermacher, dares to take it to the vocal limits and wins—Outstanding!”
— Muenchner Merkur (Eisler recording, Vol I)
[Michael Wertmüller‘s Diodati. Unendlich, 2019] “First among equals and also dramatically a force: Holger Falk as Lord Byron.”
— Die Zeit
“Holger Falk succeeds vocally and interpretively with a strong portrait of the boastful dandy Lord Byron.”
— Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
“Holger Falk plays Lord Byron with much power, expression and animalistic lust.”
— InnerSchweiz Online
“The ensemble is simply phenomenal. Holger Falk dazzles as Lord Byron with an extraordinary baritone range.”
— BR Klassik/ Wiener Zeitung
“Holger Falk is the perfect interpreter for Lord Byron. With vocal and dramatic ecstasy he realizes the character of a torn, pleasure-and sex-addicted, idealistic and at the end lonely romantic hero.”
— Neue Züricher Zeitung
“… the center of power of this exquisite ensemble is Holger Falk as the anarchistic bon vivant George Gordon Noel Lord Byron.”
— Schweitzer Musikzeitung/ Der Sonntag
“The ensemble of singers, consisting of Holger Falk (Lord Byron), Rolf Romei (Percy Shelley), Seth Carico (Polidori) and Samantha Gaul (Byron’s half-sister Augusta), delivered the sheer super-human.”
“Holger Falk sings Byron, with his egomania and lack of respect (also to the creation), with an extremely versatile baritone.”
“Wertmuller demands from his singers the highest virtuosity in the highest ranges, and at the same time Dea Loher demands from the actors a precision and joy in acting. This they impressively succeed at with the highest pleasure in exhibitionism.”
— Süddeutsche Zeitung
“In the center, however, is the bon vivant Byron, who Holger Falk portrays as a sex-addicted egomaniac, hungry for life, insatiable but throughout sympathetic. Also vocally he had to take it to a baritone’s extremes.”
“He is one of the most prominent voices of contemporary opera: However, besides major roles by Rihm, Eötvös, Asperghis and others, Baritone Holger Falk sings also Poulenc and Schubert—and now all Songs by Hanns Eisler.”
—Preview to Fonoforum
“The baritone Holger Falk (who recently performed in Heidelberg in Rihm’s Dionysos) is a fascinatingly calm Johannes whose amazement is as moving as his acceptance of his fate. He has the biggest role and Falk differentiates between speaking and singing his part that constantly changes between the two with astonishing vocal ability, a magnificent prize-worthy portrayal.”
“Holger Falk mastered the role of Johannes that calls for singing for an hour almost without interruption with a beautiful lyrical baritone, whose richness in nuances ranging from recitative to aria-like clichés appeared to be without limit.”
Eötvös: Paradise reloaded, Theater Chemnitz: “The cast is fantastic. Holger Falk, as Lucifer with his agile, clear conversational tone, is one of the intellectually and vocally flexible singers on the German stage.”
“…and soon sails in the fantastic, hard to beat with his flexible parlando Holger Falk as Lucifer from heaven, winged and naked, but without genitalia, which eats at him, because he would also like to beget…”
— Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
“Lucifer, the “bad” who always has the sympathies of the public on his side, is the visually and vocally captivating Holger Falk, who knows how to handle his devilishly difficult role with wonderful humor. The devil is denied the ability to procreate, and how he is envious of Adam’s ability to do so and having the requisite body parts, is delightfully portrayed.”
— Das Opernglas
Hasse: Leupippo “...Particularly after intermission Holger Falk presented himself as a cool streetballer with the corresponding celebratory poses of an irascible, jealous cad who is constantly the center of the action, and is given by Concerto Koln fitting rock-like aria introductions.”
— Badische Zeitung,
“The baritone Holger Falk as the cast of the highest level, yes ideal. He knows how to convincingly articulate every nuance of his role that changes though many levels. His voice is as robust as it is soothing; his portrayal does not shy away from smaller acrobatic interludes, and above all he keeps up the level for the entire 150 minutes. A tremendous achievement, which finds it high point in the “Wanderer-Song,” but truly reaches its apex in the moving closing song [‘Gott als Schaf’].”
— Rhein-Neckar Zeitung
“Holger Falk’s high baritone fits excellently to the many-faceted role of N. Heidelberg has done a great service for Wolfgang Rihm.“
— Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung,
“The hero N. appears in many guises. The singing Holger Falk is the dramatic and vocal center.”
— Die Welt
Hamburger Abendblatt Review of
Gondolier in the Elbphilharmonie
A small boat with upturned ends glides through narrow water streets, passing bridges and houses with crumbling facades. At the stern stands a man in a striped shirt and a straw hat with a colorful ribbon, who romantically steers the boat with a long oar and accompanying song.
Almost no other picture, at least among non-Venetians, is so post-card ready for a symbol of Venice as the steering gondolier in his gondola. It was natural, then, that this legendary figure would be at the center of the opening of the Hamburg Venice Festival.
As musical gondolier for its opening, the Elbphilharmonie engaged baritone Holger Falk, who takes the audience on a 90 minute journey. It began with that most Venetian of all sounds—the murmuring, flowing, and gurgling of water. The sound-effect artist duo Merzouga, which has won numerous prizes, recorded the everyday sounds of the laguna city, which provided the acoustical backdrop for the concert.
Babbling water, the screeching of seagulls, church bells ringing, and in addition the squeaking of doors, the splashing of oars, and vaporetto station announcements in multiple languages (next stop: Rialto!) emanate from the boxes on the stage during pauses in the music, and bring a whiff of the Adriatic to the Elbe. Against this background Holger Falk, along with ensemble Nuovo Aspetto, casts a net of short songs, arias and instrumental pieces that catch the audience and drag them into the boat as listening passengers. Falk chose some of the most beautiful canzoni from the repertoire of gondolieri. In the heavenly melodies of Domenico Cerutti, Pietro Auletta, and anonymous composers he sings of the nighttime by moonlight, the festive mood of the poor man and, of course, that strange game called love in all its facets from teasing, to magical eroticism, to the betrayal by the false little mouth of Ninetta.
The appeal of the songs is high. Venice seems to come out here as the birthplace of the hit song. Holger Falk, equally in demand as an opera singer and Lied interpreter, finds exactly the right tone for this music with a light sound that unites simplicity and sweetness in his almost tenor timbre. He is particularly magical in the slightly trashy “La biondina in gondoletta” about a gondola trip with a pretty blonde whose bosoms are unveiled by a light breeze.
Like a vocal chameleon, Falk changes color with the surroundings of the music. He venomously mocks the pompous rich, nasally imitating the vulgar language of the street (“Per mi aver Catina“), in which the audience shyly sings along the chorus. In the process the baritone shows from time to time his love for performing, also in the almost “for adults only” “un’an guileta fresca” whose narrator offers his “fresh eel”— ha,ha!—to a young lady named Nina to be handled with special care. Here Falk portrays with large gestures the testosterone overload and easy arousal of the young man which give him and the audience much enjoyment.
Musically, the program sets its points primarily by clever arrangements. The nine-member group Nuovo Aspetto brings together a colorful mix of historical instruments, from the baroque guitar to the traverso flute and harp to the Salterio, a baroque dulcimer. Through a clever distribution of the soli, the ensemble gives each song its own color, and enriches the vocal selections with short pieces of the Venetian composer Antonio Vivaldi.
Meanwhile, the enchanting computer musician Eva Pöpplein—the visible part of the duo Merzouga—on the left of the ensemble on stage at a black-covered table, moves her head gently in the rhythm of the pieces, and via live electronics does not only send the Venetian waters but also some loops of the singer’s vocal lines into the hall. This is how contemporary sound technology and old instruments, noise and music, everyday life and art come together for an entertaining trip with the Gondolier Veneziano, all of which makes you want more.
— Hamburger Abendblatt, April 20, 2019 (translation)