One of the most versatile artists of the 20th century's second half, baritone (or bass baritone) Tom Krause excelled in music from Bach to Britten, Mozart to Searle. Though not exceptionally large or sensuous, Krause's cleanly produced instrument never issued unpleasant sounds, and the singer's refined artistic instincts conspired to keep his work at a high level. Even in situations calling for a greater weight of voice than he really commanded, his clear diction and canny sensitivity to the right accents enabled him to give the impression of authority.
Krause intended to pursue a career in medicine in his native city, but found that a taste for light music and later, an interest in singing, were moving him toward a musical career. He entered the Vienna Music Academy in 1956, and upon completion of his studies there, made his debut in 1959 at Berlin's Städtische Oper. The role was Escamillo, an impersonation he was to record on two subsequent occasions. Early international exposure came through the Kurwenal he recorded with Solti and Birgit Nilsson. Numerous engagements followed at opera houses and concert stages throughout Middle Europe, and in 1962, Krause became a member of the company at Hamburg where he endeared himself to the public in Wagner, Verdi, and (especially) Mozart roles. After only five years, he was made a Kammersänger. For his home theater, he participated in the premieres of Ernst Krenek's Der Goldene Bock in 1964 and Humphrey Searle's Hamlet in 1968. Meanwhile, Krause had made his Bayreuth debut as the Herald in Lohengrin (1962) and the following year appeared at the Glyndebourne Festival for the first time as the Count in Strauss' Capriccio.
Krause's Salzburg debut came in 1968 when he sang the title role in Don Giovanni, beginning a productive relationship with the festival. Thirty years after his first appearance, he sang in Salzburg's widely praised production of Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise. Paris heard Krause for the first time in 1973; La Scala welcomed him two years later. While heard to best advantage on-stage in Mozart, Krause made effective studies of such other roles as Pizzaro, Golaud, Amfortas, and portrayed a light-voiced but vivid Amonasro.
During his lengthy career, Krause made many studio recordings with first-class collaborators. His Pizzaro with Nilsson, McCracken, and a hard-driving Lorin Maazel is intimidatingly nasty. His numerous Bach recordings reveal a mellifluous voice and sympathetic interpretation joined with stylistic keenness. Both of his recorded Escamillos, if not the last word in bravura, show both dramatic flair and the ability to truly voice the many low-lying phrases. Finally, Krause's many recordings of German lieder and Scandinavian and Russian songs are the work of an insightful, engaging artist.