Ariën Artists - Kai WESSEL, Counter - Deutscher Lebenslauf



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Kai Wessel's love of singing was apparent from the start and was furthered in school choirs as well as parish choirs in his hometown Hamburg. At the age of nine he became a member (boy soprano) of the choir at Christ Church, the local community church in Hamburg Wandsbek and changed in succession from alto to tenor to bass after his voice break. Right up to the start of his studies at the conservatory of music in Lübeck he remained true to various town choral groups, the chamber choir at the Hochschule in Hamburg and its director Prof. Klaus Vetter.

These developments were underscored by regular piano lessons starting at the age of seven (from 1971-78 with Barbara Göken at the Hamburg Music School, from 1978-83 with Matthias Petersen), lessons on the organ (1977-81 with Harald Petersen, cantor and organist at the Christ Church, Hamburg-Wandsbek) and on the oboe (1979-81, Jens Hupbach).  

Having been composing from the age of eight it became clear that Kai Wessel would study composition and in addition piano and conducting as soon as his "Abitur" (engl. a-levels, amer. high school certificate) was completed. To prepare him for this he studied harmony and counterpoint with Prof. Dieter Einfeldt at the Musikhochschule in Hamburg. Despite having passed his entrance to the conservatory he had to wait so he began to study in Lübeck instead, choosing singing as a secondary subject instead of a further instrument.   

The meeting with Prof. Ute von Garczynski who recognised his talent as an alto right from the first semester changed the planned course. During the following years there would be a shift of emphasis from theory and composition to singing and the speciality field of counter tenor as it was regarded then. Together with René Jacobs at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (Basel) where Kai Wessel completed parallel studies in historical performance practice from 1984-88, Frau von Garczynski led her protegé through his diploma (1988) to his final recital examination (Konzertexamen) which he passed with distinction. During the same period he passed his theory teacher's exam under Prof. Roland Ploeger (1990) and his composition diploma under Prof.Dr. Friedhelm Döhl (1991).

To judge the rights or wrongs of his choice of vocal "department" Kai Wessel took part in a national singing competition (Category B) in the autumn of 1984 open to participants with 2 years' tuition, where he received a prize and a bursary. In the winter of that year he gave hi first public concert as an alto in the Marienkirche in Flensburg, so beginning a wide-ranging concert schedule which has continued to the present day. A further big step was his first stage production at the summer theatre festivals in Munich and Hamburg in 1986 (though still a student), taking the title role in the oratorio "Il Batista" by Antonio Caldara. Despite having been refused a final diploma as an opera singer in Lübeck on account of his vocal "status" as an alto he was nevertheless in a position to sign his first contract as guest artiste at the Stadttheater in Freiburg in 1988 singing in John Dew's production of J.Ph.Rameau's "Hippolyt und Aricie". In the collaboration with Herbert Wernicke at the Theater Basel which lasted for eight years till Wernicke's death in 2002.

Leading roles in oratorios and operas by George Frederic Handel (Didymus, Tolomeo, Joacim, Unulfo, Arsace), as Orpheus in Gluck's "Orfeo ed Euridice" (production and choreography by Joachim Schlömer) or the role of the Guest in the world première of Salvatore Sciarrino's "Luci mie traditrici" spring to mind here. Collaborations with Philipp Herreweghe, Ton Koopman, Gustav Leonhard, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Hermann Max, Michael Schneider, Martin Haselböck, Michel Corboz and Hans-Werner Henze among others were central in his development as a concert and oratorio singer. His interpretation of J.S.Bach's music gave Kai Wessel both a strong creative impulse and the reputation as something of a specialist in his field.

Due to the pressure of work as a singer Kai Wessel has had to cut down on his activities as a composer, although he regularly devotes time to its pursuit. The song cycle "Elternlieder" (parent' songs) is approaching completion and the composition "sounds" for viola da gamba will soon be first piece to appear in print.

In the meantime Kai Wessel has already made a name for himself as a pedagogue in the field of vocal technique and historical performance. Invitations to give master classes as part of international music festivals and his teaching post at the State Conservatory in Cologne allow him the scope to pass on his years of experience to music students and develop them further with colleagues in projects for and with young singers and instrumentalists.

When he's not travelling Kai Wessel lives in Cologne and Hamburg.

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