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Ernst Haefliger (Häfliger) (Tenor)

Born: July 6, 1919 - Davos, Switzerland
Died: March 17, 2007 - Davos, Switzerland

The noted Swiss tenor, Ernst Haefliger [Häfliger], is recognized as one of the great vocal artists of the 20th century. His worldwide reputation rests on his supreme interpretation of German Lieder, opera and oratorio which he has performed regularly throughout Europe, Japan and the USA. World-renowned for his interpretations of Bach, his performances of the Evangelist in the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) have set a worldwide standard. He is equally acclaimed and admired as one of the world's great lieder singers, and his recitals and master-classes have become legendary.

Ernst Haefliger studied at the Wettinger Seminary and the Zürich Conservatory. Later he became a pupil of Fernando Capri in Geneva, and of the noted tenor Julius Patzak in Vienna. He devoted himself to lieder and choral works, and soon established a reputation for impeccable style and musicianship.

He made his debut in Geneva in 1942 as the Evangelist in Bach's St John Passion (BWV 245). Ernst Haefliger entered the world of opera at the suggestion of the late conductor Ferenc Fricsay. He sang with the Zürich Opera from 1943 to 1952, and made his Salzburg Festival début in 1949 as 1st Armed Man in Die Zauberflöte. He gained wide recognition when he created the role of Tiresias in the world premiere of Orff's Oedipus (or Antigonae?) with the Zürich Opera at the Salzburg Festival in 1949. His Glyndebourne début was in 1956 as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte. From 1952 to 1974 he was a member and first lyric tenor of the Berlin Städtische (later Deutsche) Oper, but he also appeared as a guest artist with many of the principal European opera houses.

Ernst Haefliger’s roles in Mozart’s operas were particularly esteemed. It was as Tamino in The Magic Flute that he made his debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1966. His first performance in North America was at the 1959 Vancouver Festival, where he was heard by Bruno Walter who invited him to record Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde.

Ernst Haefliger pursued a distinguished career as a concert singer. His appearances as the Evangelist in Bach’s Passions were notable. One of his tours of the USA was chiefly devoted to performances of the Bach St. John Passion (BWV 245) and St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), with stops including Boston, Hartford, Princeton, New York, and Washington, D.C. He sang in premiere performances of Frank Martin's oratorios Le vin herbé (Zürich 1942), In terra pax (Geneva radio 1945) and Golgotha (Geneva 1949).

Ernst Haefliger is applauded as one of the world's great Lieder singers, and his recitals have evoked the highest praise from critics throughout the world. He has sung regularly in the leading European concert halls, both in recital and with orchestra. During his career, he has made numerous New York appearances - at Avery Fisher Hall with the New York Philharmonic and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and in song/voice/vocal series at the Metropolitan Museum and Carnegie Hall.

In recent seasons, Ernst Haefliger has performed the role of Speaker in Arnold Schoenberg's Gurrelieder with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, and with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and James Levine in New York’s Carnegie Hall and in Tokyo. He also gave master-classes in Zürich, at the Marlboro Music Festival, and in Japan.

Ernst Haefliger's many recordings have been released by Angel, Columbia, Vanguard and Philips Records. Deutsche Grammophon has issued a box set of twelve CD’s entitled “The Art of Ernst Haefliger,” with repertoire ranging from Bach to Janácek and including the three great Schubert song cycles.

Ernst Haefliger was Professor of singing at the Munich Hochschule für Musik from 1971. He wrote Die Singstimme (Berne 1983). His son is the pianist Andreas Haefliger.

Source: Xrefer Website, from Oxford Dictionary of Music (1994); Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Colbert Artists Website (March 2003); blog 'Karl Richter in München' [Photos]; Johannes Honigmann (March 2007)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2001, August 2003); Matthias Hansen (Photo 10 - January 2010)

Ernst Haefliger: Short Biography | General Discussions

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Under his name


BWV 440, 441, 445, 446, 447, 451, 452, 458, 462, 466, 469, 476, 481, 482, 487, 493, 500

Eduard van Beinum


BWV 244

Pablo Casals


BWV 244

Eugen Jochum


BWV 244 [2nd, Evangelist], BWV 244 [3rd, Evangelist], BWV 245

Lorin Maazel


BWV 232, BWV 249

Rudolf Mauersberger


BWV 232

Günther Ramin


BWV 244, BWV 245 [1st], BWV 245 [2nd]

Karl Richter


BWV 1, BWV 8, BWV 21, BWV 26, BWV 45, BWV 55, BWV 60, BWV 65, BWV 106, BWV 108, BWV 124, BWV 189
BWV 232 [2nd], BWV 232 [3rd], BWV 232 [4th], BWV 243 [1st], BWV 244 [1st - Evangelist], BWV 244 [3rd - Evangelist], BWV 245 [1st - Evangelist], BWV 245 [2nd]

Walter Reinhart


BWV 78, BWV 243

Johannes Somary


BWV 244

August Wenzinger


G.F. Handel: Brockes Passion, HWV 48

Links to other Sites

Haefliger, Ernst (Xrefer)
Hommage à Ernst Haefliger (Claves Records)
Profile of faculities
BBC Radio 3 - CD Masters Featured Artist: Ernst Haefliger
Ernst Haefliger (Wikipedia) [German]

Internationale Meisterkurse für Zürich: Ernst Häfliger
Profile of faculities (Kusatsu International Summer)
Ernst Haefliger (Opera Mania) [Hungarian]
Ernst Haefliger, tenor (Colbert Artists)
Karl Richter in München [German]

Biographies of Performers: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Explanation | Acronyms | Missing Biographies | The Sad Corner


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