Friday, January 4, 2013

Christian Tetzlaff

Christian Tetzlaff is a German violinist and teacher born (in Hamburg) on April 24, 1966.  As was Joseph Szigeti, he is known for his intellectual approach to playing, though that is a very limiting characterization of his style.  He is also one of the few (male) violinists who does not wear casual clothing when performing and does not make an issue of appearing “non-elitist” by wearing casual clothes when he performs.  Joshua Bell, Leonidas Kavakos, Stefan Jackiw, Gilles Apap, and Nigel Kennedy (among others) have long-ago abandoned the formal attire of a traditional concert violinist (white tie and tails) in favor of grungy and casual clothes.  His three siblings are also professional musicians, as were all four Spivakovsky brothers.  He is also rather unique in that he favors a modern violin to his Stradivarius.  Tetzlaff did not enter a conservatory as a child, as have many violinists before him.  He took up the violin at age 6 but proceeded to get a regular academic education.  At age 14, he made his orchestral debut playing the Beethoven concerto.  After that, he studied with Uwe-Martin Haiberg at the Lubeck Music School – Lubeck is about 40 miles north of Hamburg.  In 1985, he came to the U.S. to study with Walter Levin (pupil of Ivan Galamian) at the University of Cincinnati.  He was 19 years old.  He has subsequently played with virtually every major orchestra in the world and has given recitals in the most important venues as well.  Though his discography is not extensive, every one of his recordings has been highly praised.  There are many classical music lovers who consider him underrated by critics and the general public.  The same thing has been said many times of Pinchas Zukerman.  YouTube has several videos of his performances.  Here is one with the Brahms concerto.  Tetzlaff is the only violinist I know who regularly plays all of the Bach Partitas in one single program.  Several others do play all of the Paganini Caprices in a single recital but he prefers doing that with Bach.  Tetzlaff organized the Tetzlaff String Quartet (with Elisabeth Kufferath, Hanna Weinmeister, and Tonja Tetzlaff) in 1994.  He was 28 years old.  Since 2002, his violin of choice has been one by German Luthier, Peter Greiner.  It sounds like a Stradivarius, if not better.  Leonidas Kavakos also owns a Greiner violin.  Tetzlaff teaches at the Kronberg Academy, situated near Frankfurt, Germany.  A famous quote by Tetzlaff goes like this: “Trying to turn lead into gold is nothing compared to taking something mechanical like an instrument – a string and a bow - and using it to evoke a human soul, preserved through the centuries.”  

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