Born: 1953 in Swabia
Genre: Vocal Music
Among the post-Gerald Moore, post-Geoffrey Parsons accompanists, Hartmut Holl has attracted attention as a collaborator with his own ideas about singer/accompanist partnerships. With his wife, mezzo soprano Mitsuko Shirai, and with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau during the final years of the baritone's long career, Holl has demonstrated an often grittier approach, although some critics have felt him less polished than his predecessors. Holl, nonetheless, has shown a readiness to explore the outer edges of the song literature, frequently bringing into new focus lyric works by lesser, or less well-known, composers.
At the Stuttgart Conservatory, where Holl was pursuing his studies in the 1970s, he met his future wife. Shirai, though born in Japan, had acquired great facility in German and her interest in literature attracted the activist temperament of the young pianist. As a student of composer/accompanist Hermann Reutter, Holl was afforded the opportunity of serving as accompanist for master classes being given by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. The great singer was impressed by both Holl's work for her classes and by his performances with Shirai.
In the early '80s, Holl came to the attention of another great lieder artist and became Fischer-Dieskau's regular accompanist. He remained with the baritone for 14 years, providing probing and conscientious support amidst Fischer-Dieskau's occasional projects with concert pianists less adept at collaboration. In recordings and one extant video, Holl demonstrates great spontaneity, confirming the conclusions of a writer in The Christian Science Monitor that he is a pianist "of spiky originality and great emotional depth."
Through a substantial series of recordings for the Capriccio label, Holl has been able to explore with Shirai both standard and not-so-standard repertory. Mozart and Brahms were each treated to close re-examination in discs produced in the 1990s. An example of fresh exploration was heard in the 1991 release 2x Winterreise, in which the singer and accompanist performed the cycle on one disc, while on the other Holl performed the accompaniment to the violin playing of Tabea Zimmermann and readings of the texts by Peter Hartling. Other composers whose songs have been recorded by Holl and Shirai include Robert Franz, Viktor Ullman, Hugo Wolf, Alban Berg, Reutter, Hanns Eisler, and Karl Michael Komma.
- Erik Eriksson (All Music Guide)