‘Surely one of the major creative forces in Germany's musical life…Enormously powerful, a sort of 21st century Das Lied von der Erde. Lavishly orchestrated, the canvas suggesting epic vistas… Burningly intense and with a passionate voice all of its own.’ BBC Radio 3 (Rob Cowan)
Torsten Rasch was born in Dresden in 1965. He began taking piano lessons at the age of six and from 1974-82 was a member of Dresden’s renowned Kreuzchor, before going on to study composition and piano at the city’s Carl Maria von Weber University. In 1990 he emigrated to Japan and established himself as a successful composer for film and television.
In 2002 Rasch received a commission from the Dresdner Sinfoniker. The resultant work – a 65-minute song cycle based on the music and lyrics of German industrial metal band Rammstein entitled Mein Herz brennt – premiered to great critical acclaim in Dresden and Berlin before being revived at the Helsinki Musica Nova Festival. A Deutsche Grammophon recording of the work (featuring René Pape, Katharina Thalbach and the Dresden Sinfoniker conducted by John Carewe) was awarded Best World Premiere Recording at the Echo Classical Awards in Munich. In 2006, Rasch was commissioned by London’s ICA to collaborate with the Pet Shop Boys on a soundtrack for the silent film Battleship Potemkin and a live, screened performance took place in London's Trafalgar Square.
Meanwhile, interest in his music grew in Great Britain. Rasch’s Piano Trio, commissioned by the BBC for the 2006 Cheltenham Festival, received highly appreciative reviews whilst in May 2009 Vladimir Jurowski and the LPO introduced Mein Herz brennt to London. In 2009 the Two Moors Festival and pianist Andreas Haefliger commissioned two new works: a setting of Oskar Kokoschka's poem Die Traumenden Knaben for 'Pierrot' ensemble, and a String Quartet, inspired by a Fra Angelico painting, for the Kuss Quartet.
Rasch’s first opera, Rotter, based on a play by East German dissident Thomas Brasch, was commissioned by Köln Opera and received its world premiere in February 2008. A short orchestral work, Excantare fruges was premiered by the Dresden Sinfoniker under Olari Elts the following September. The orchestral showpiece Wouivres was premiered by the Robert Schumann Philharmonie Chemnitz under Frank Beermann, with critics remarking: ‘a piece bristling with movement, brilliance and gorgeous sound,’ ‘superlatively suited to show an orchestra in the very best light.’
The Duchess of Malfi, Rasch’s ground-breaking second opera, was premiered in London in 2010 by English National Opera and the experimental theatre group Punchdrunk. The performances sold out within hours, and contributed to ENO’s Audience Development award from the Royal Philharmonic Society in 2011. The opera was revived by Chemnitz Opera in 2013. The song cycle Le Serpent Rouge, a BBC commission, premiered in 2010 by the soprano Yeree Suh and the BBC Symphony Orchestra under André de Ridder. Rasch was Composer in Residence at the 2011 Moritzburg Chamber Music Festival.
Rasch’s music has enjoyed the advocacy of a number of distinguished performers in many of the world’s most respected halls. Baritone Wolfgang Holzmair and cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton unveiled his dramatic scene for baritone and cello I see Phantoms at London’s Wigmore Hall in 2012 whilst 2014 saw …in der Hülse von Schnee… his striking choral settings of Holderlin being performed at the Kammermusiksaal of the Berlin Philharmonie by the RIAS Chamber Choir. In September 2012, Rasch’s Mendelssohn Lieder orchestrations were performed by Matthias Goerne and the Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum in Leipzig.
In July 2014, A Foreign Field, a major commission from the Three Choirs Festival to mark the centenary of World War One was premiered by the Three Choirs Festival Chorus and Philharmonia Orchestra in Worcester Cathedral and was later broadcast on BBC Radio 3. The German premiere took place in Chemnitz in 2015. Die Formel, an ambitious interdisciplinary work for singers, actors and orchestra was premiered at Konzert Theater Bern in 2018.
Current projects include works for the RIAS Kammerchor and Semperoper Dresden.