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Karl Erb (Tenor)

Born: July 13, 1877 - Ravensburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Died: July 13, 1958 - Ravensburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

The noted German tenor, Karl Erb, was was largely self taught as a singer, commiting himself very late (aged about 30) to a professional singing career. By what few accounts are available, he had a complex personality, being an illegitimate child and by nature an introvert.

Karl Erb made his debut in Stuttgart in 1907. Then he sang in Lübeck from 1908 to 1910, Stuttgart from 1910 to 1913, and Munich from 1913 to 1925. Later he embarked on a series of appearances as a concert and oratorio singer. He was best known for his portrayal of roles in the works of Mozart. His greatest success being the creation of the title role in Palestrina by Hans Pfitzner, and he was also superb as Wolf’s Corregidor.

Karl Erb had a unique voice, possibly less classically beautiful of what is expected from a singer of his stature. His tone was somewhat nasal and the apparent instability of high notes in particular can initially make a listener uneasy. Yet, he had all the qualities of a great Lieder singer, and he was one of the most expressive of singers, penetrating right to the core of many Lieder.

An accident forced Karl Erb's premature retirement from the operatic stage, where he had a substantial repertoire. For the remainder of his career he concentrated on Lieder and concert performance. He was considered as the greatest Evangelist of his day in J.S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion (BWV 244). Remarkably his voice suffered little with age and there are several wonderful Lieder recordings made when he was almost 80.

From 1921 to 1932 Karl Erb was married to the esteemed Hungarian soprano Maria Ivogün. They recorded 5 duets together in 1917 which appear on the Lebendige Vergangenheit CD devoted to Ivogün. In 1925 they gave a highly praised joint Lieder recital.

Source: Liner notes to the Album The Hugo Wolf Society 1931-1938 (EMI, late 1970’s); Schubert Singers Website; Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2001); Yoël L. Arbeitman (February 2009); Manfred Krugmann (Photo 02, September 2012)

Karl Erb: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works under his name

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Willem Mengelberg


BWV 244

Günther Ramin


BWV 244 [1st]

Links to other Sites

Karl Erb (Schubert Singers)


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