Gerhard Hüsch began his career in 1920 as an actor at the Hanover Schauspielhaus, having been an acting pupil of Ewald Schindler; but he studied singing with Hans Emge in the same city and made his operatic stage debut in 1923 at Osnabrück as Count Liebenau in Lortzing’s comedy Der Waffenschmied. While a member of Bremen Municipal Theatre from 1924 to 1927 Hüsch made guest appearances in Hamburg as Eberbach / Der Wildschütz and Germont père / La traviata before joining Cologne Opera, where his performances of the title role in Don Giovanni made him a leading singer. Other notable successes at Cologne included appearances in Jonny spielt auf and Tannhäuser.
During this period Hüsch became extremely active as a guest singer, appearing at Vienna, Hamburg, Dresden and Munich. He made his debut at the Bayreuth Festival in 1930, as Wolfram / Tannhäuser under Toscanini, returning to sing the same role the following year. Also in 1930 he first appeared at the Royal Opera House, London singing in Die Zauberflöte (Papageno) and in Die Fledermaus with Bruno Walter conducting. In Holland he appeared in Amsterdam in 1930 and sang Guglielmo / Così fan tutte at The Hague in 1931. By now a favourite artist of some of the greatest conductors of the period including Toscanini, Klemperer, Böhm, Walter and Fritz Busch, Hüsch’s operatic repertoire was extensive and included roles in La Cenerentola, Orphée aux enfers, Pelléas et Mélisande, Il segreto di Susanna and Le nozze di Figaro. He also took the spoken role of the Pasha in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
It was in 1930 also that Hüsch joined the Berlin City Opera (Städtische Oper), remaining with this company until 1935. He gave his first song recital in Berlin 1932, quickly establishing an international reputation as one of the finest lieder and concert singers of his generation, with appearances in Germany, England, Holland and Scandinavia as well as a tour of Japan in 1937. Hüsch’s repertoire included the major composers of both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including Richard Strauss, Pfitzner, and Kilpinen; he also achieved considerable fame for his interpretation of the part of Christus in Bach’s St Matthew Passion. His burgeoning reputation was greatly assisted by his recordings, made for EMI during the 1930s, of major works such as Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreisse.
During his years as a member of the Berlin State Opera, Hüsch took part in the first performance there of Fried Walter’s opera Andreas Wolfius in 1940. Other roles of note which he sang on stage included Leporello / Don Giovanni, Ford / Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, Storch / Intermezzo, di Luna / Il trovatore, Marcello / La Bohème and the title role in Gianni Schicchi.
In 1937 Hüsch was appointed a professor at the Munich High School for Music and began to develop a second career as a teacher. After World War II, during which he was close to Rosalind von Schirach, sister of Baldur von Schirach the wartime Gauleiter of Vienna, teaching became his principal occupation, although he continued to give recitals until the mid-1950s. In addition to his teaching in Munich, he gave master-classes throughout Europe and in Japan, and between 1977 and 1981 taught at the Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana as well as in Texas and Colorado.
In his singing Hüsch concentrated on performing with a smooth line, rounded tone and clear diction rather than with heroic declamation: leading the way, in this respect, for later post-war German singers of note, such as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Hermann Prey.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).
Role: Classical Artist