Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
The first piece of music I remember hearing was Vltava from Má Vlast by Smetana.
After that, I heard Yehudi Menuhin on a record for the first time ever. This was back when I played the violin, and I thought it was incredibly beautiful. I was not in a position to think about having a career as a professional musician at that time, but it did have a lasting effect on me.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
There are quite a few people to consider at various different stages of my life. My violin teacher at school was the first person who influenced my life musically. I was also hugely influenced by Karl-Friedrich Beringer, the director of the Windsbacher Boys Choir, as he instilled in me the desire to sing. He taught me, along with all the others lucky enough to be in the choir, to always strive for perfection and to never settle for less.
In terms of people who have influenced my career, I would have to say my singing professor Harald Stamm, as well as Brigitte Fassbaender and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. The latter two were instrumental in my career progression. I would also like to mention Axel Bauni, who inspired me to discover contemporary music.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
As a singer, you are constantly developing, and I thrive on being challenged over and over again. Challenges occur when people are putting their trust and their own artistic vision onto you in ways that both expand your mind and performance abilities as an artist.
Which performances/recordings are you most proud of?
That is a difficult question! As I have developed as a singer, I have learnt that every performance or recording I undertake can only ever be just a snapshot of the whole. So I can’t really pinpoint one particular recording that I am most proud of. Instead, I prefer to see every piece of work I do as a process, and I enjoy discovering and re-discovering the magic and wonder of music over and over again.
What I can say for certain though is that my family fill me with pride every day. I am very grateful to my wife and children, who have always supported every aspect of my musical journey and are always willing to compromise even with the most strenuous parts of my job.
Which particular works do you think you perform best?
As a vocalist you have to be able to constantly adapt for any upcoming task, and I do my best to do justice to all of the projects I am involved in. I’m in the wonderful situation where I’ve not been boxed into just one genre as an artist, and this has allowed me to interpret many different styles of music, from Monteverdi to contemporary music. Being able to perform this full range has given me a vast amount of experience which I am able to take into future projects.
How do you make your repertoire choices from season to season?
Not all decisions are necessarily in my hands, as I am in the ensemble of an opera house, as well as doing my own work. But generally speaking, I strive for variety and try to overcome the boundaries of thinking in musical genres wherever I can.
Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?
There are venues that look stunning from the outside but their sound is really dull. And there are some venues that might look a bit drab from the outside or are in need of some paint, but the acoustics within make the voice sound phenomenal. I will always prefer to sing in the latter type of venue.
What is your most memorable concert experience?
I once sang Anakreon’s Grave by Hugo Wolf. It was a wonderful concert, but suddenly someone in the audience had a heart attack. We immediately stopped the show and helped as much as we could until the ambulance came. Luckily it was all okay and we resumed the show, but that particular moment will always stay with me, in all its vividness.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Samuel Johnson once said: “Great works are performed, not by strength, but by perseverance […] He that shall walk with vigor three hours a day, will pass in seven years a space equal to the circumference of the globe.”
On a more personal level, I do hope to have a long and healthy career.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Desire and hunger are the two key elements that I would impart to aspiring musicians. By desire, I mean that there shouldn’t be anything in the world you would rather do than sing. In this industry, you will constantly be faced with obstacles that you’ll need to overcome. Desire can be the driving factor that spurs you on in times of difficulty.
Hunger, on the hand, means that you should always be curious and stay open-minded, in order to grow both as a performer and as a person.
My final tip to aspiring musicians is to never aim for perfection.
Award-winning German Baritone Peter Schöne will make his UK debut in composer Thomas Larcher’s first opera The Hunting Gun at Snape Maltings’ Aldeburgh Festival on 7 and 9 June. More information
(Artist photo by Gisela Schenker)