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Kurt Moll 11 April 1938 – 5 March
2017 An obituary by Ralph Moore
The German lyric basso profondo Kurt Moll has died in Cologne at the age of 78 after a long illness; his status as one of the greatest basses of the late 20C is surely unchallenged. He began his professional stage career with Cologne Opera aged only twenty, his international career blossoming throughout 1970’s with performances in all the major European and American opera houses. After a career of nearly fifty years, he retired in 2006 to give master classes. He was a singer of formidable range and versatility, excelling in the more cantabile Wagner roles such as Gurnemanz, Pogner, Daland, the Landgraf, Hunding and the dragon Fafner, but also as an unmatchable exponent of the fruitier basso roles drawn form a range of operatic genres, including Ochs, Sarastro, Il commendatore, Osmin and even Sparafucile, with its saturnine low F. He was, however, equally at home in Lieder, first recording for the Orfeo label in 1982 a recital of a selection of the more philosophical Schubert songs and later that same year a superb "Winterreise"; both recordings are obligatory listening for lovers of Lieder.
His glorious voice is as sleek and smooth as a steel blade sheathed in black velvet; instantly recognisable and sui generis - you would never mistake Moll for another singer. The resonance of his tone gave the impression of huge size and power without necessarily being exceptionally loud, while his superb diction and seamless legato allowed him to create drama without percussiveness. The sonorousness of his low notes, produced in totally relaxed fashion without apparent effort, strain or tension in his vocal apparatus and apparent even in his speaking voice, was an aural marvel; he was a true “infra-bass”. It was this rock-solid technique and reliance upon restraint which perhaps led him to eschew the more overtly demonstrative and declamatory Wagnerian roles such as Wotan, Hagen and Hans Sachs and also prolonged the longevity of his beautiful bass voice throughout his long career – although no doubt he could have sung those roles, albeit at a price, had he so chosen.
He leaves a large discography and an invaluable teaching legacy; aspiring basses could do no better than to take him as their vocal model if they wish to prolong the endurance of both their voices and their performing careers. For many opera aficionados, Moll, nicknamed "die Stimme Gottvaters" (“the voice of God the Father”), joins the select few of “immortal” basses such as Reizen, Chaliapin, Pinza and Journet.