Cellist Jan Vogler developed from child prodigy to a versatile artist atop the contemporary scene, aided, ironically, by currents of history that saw his home country cease to exist. Vogler was born February 18, 1964, in Berlin, and grew up in what was then East Germany. He took up his instrument at age six and was taught by his father, Peter, and later by the veteran Berlin cellist and pedagogue Josef Schwab. Vogler became principal cellist of the venerable Staatskapelle Dresden at age 20 and then the youngest concertmaster in the orchestra's nearly 500-year history. Anxious for further training in the West, Vogler undertook the rigorous process of getting a permit to leave East Germany. In 1988, after four months, he was given a passport thanks to an invitation from the Marlboro Festival in Vermont; Vogler had been recommended to pianist Rudolf Serkin by one of his teachers, Siegfried Palm.
Vogler's experience at Marlboro added an aspect of chamber music to Vogler's repertoire, and he has continued to perform and record chamber music enthusiastically, often with pianist Hélène Grimaud. He was invited to return to the U.S. to perform on tour with a group of Marlboro-affiliated musicians in late 1989 and arrived at Kennedy Airport in October, only to have his wallet promptly stolen. He talked a bus driver into taking him into the city for free but then found that the friend who was supposed to meet him had forgotten the arrangement. A sympathetic musician friend gave him a place to sleep, and the tour went off well, with the young German enjoying such American luxuries as eating Chinese food at 3 A.M. A few days later, Vogler watched the Berlin Wall fall on television, and from then on America took on greater importance in his musical life. He met the violinist Mira Wang in 1991; the pair married, have raised two children, and assert that they have learned to play together without killing each other. Vogler remained in his Dresden post until 1996. Since then he has divided his time between New York and Dresden.
The year 1996 also marked Vogler's debut recording, an album of Beethoven works for cello and piano with Bruno Canino. That album appeared on Berlin Classics, for which Vogler recorded until 2004. That year he was signed to Sony Classical, for which he has recorded a varied selection of concertos, chamber music, and contemporary compositions.
In 2010 he recorded with the group the Knights, which has performed in non-traditional venues. One of Vogler's most-acclaimed recordings has been his traversal of Bach's six Suites for solo cello; in 2014 it earned him his third ECHO-Klassik award in Germany. Vogler's 2016 recording of Schumann's Cello Concerto in A minor, Op. 129, employed a 1707 Stradivarius with gut strings: it was in essence a historical performance of Schumann.