ViolinChristian Tetzlaff
© Giorgia BertazziArtist

"I think what ultimately moves people is the emotional openness and deep sincerity of Tetzlaff’s playing."

The Boston Globe
27 / 32

Biography

Christian Tetzlaff has been one of the most sought-after violinists and exciting musicians on the classical music scene for many years. “The greatest performance of the work I’ve ever heard,” Tim Ashley wrote in the Guardian about his interpretation of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with Daniel Harding. In the Frankfurter Rundschau Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich called it virtually a “rediscovery” of this frequently played work.

Concerts with Christian Tetzlaff often become an existential experience for interpreter and audience alike; old familiar works suddenly appear in an entirely new light. In addition, he frequently turns his attention to forgotten masterpieces like Joseph Joachim’s Violin Concerto, which he successfully championed, and attempts to establish important new works in the repertoire, such as the Violin Concerto by Jörg Widmann, which he premiered. He has an unusually extensive repertoire and gives approximately 100 concerts every year. Christian Tetzlaff served as Artist in Residence with the Berlin Philharmonic, participated in a concert series over several seasons with New York’s Metropolitan Opera Orchestra under James Levine and appears regularly as a guest with such ensembles as the Vienna and New York Philharmonic Orchestras, the Concertgebouw Orchestra and London’s leading orchestras, working with leading conductors like Andris Nelsons, Robin Ticciati and Vladimir Jurowski.


 

Apart from his tremendous expertise on the violin, there are three things that make the musician, who was born in Hamburg in 1966 and now lives in Berlin with his family, unique. He takes the musical text literally, he understands music as language, and he sees great works as narratives which reflect existential experiences. What sounds so obvious is an unusual approach in the everyday concert routine.

Christian Tetzlaff tries to follow the musical text as closely as possible – without regard for “performance tradition” and without allowing himself the customary technical simplifications on the violin – often making well-known works appear in new clarity and richness. As a violinist Tetzlaff tries to disappear behind the work – and that paradoxically makes his interpretations extremely personal.

Secondly, Christian Tetzlaff “speaks” with his violin. Like human speech, his playing comprises a wide range of expressive means and is not aimed solely at harmoniousness or virtuosic brilliance. Above all, however, he regards the masterpieces of music history as narratives about existential matters. The great composers have focussed on intense feelings, great happiness and serious crises in their music, and as a musician Christian Tetzlaff also explores the limits of feelings and musical expression. Many works deal with nothing less than life and death. Christian Tetzlaff’s goal is to convey that to the audience.

Essential to this approach are the courage to take risks, technical brilliance, openness and alertness to life. Significantly, Christian Tetzlaff played in youth orchestras for many years. His teacher at the Lübeck University of Music was Uwe-Martin Haiberg, for whom musical interpretation is the key to violin technique – not the other way around. Christian Tetzlaff founded his own string quartet in 1994, and chamber music is still as important to him as his work as a soloist with and without orchestra. The Tetzlaff Quartet has received such awards as the Diapason d’or, and the trio with his sister Tanja Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt was nominated for a Grammy. Christian Tetzlaff has also received numerous awards for his solo CD recordings. In September 2017, his recent solo recording of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas was released.

Christian Tetzlaff plays a violin made by the German violin maker Peter Greiner and teaches regularly at the Kronberg Academy.

In the 2017/18 season Christian Tetzlaff can be experienced on four continents, among others with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo, Israel Philharmonic, London Symphony and London Philharmonic Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic and Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich under the baton of conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Sir Simon Rattle, Paavo Järvi, Manfred Honeck, Robin Ticciati and Vladimir Jurowsky. 

With the Tetzlaff Quartet, in trio with Tanja Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt or solo performances, he will be in New York, London, in the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg and the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin.

SEASON 2017/2018

Quotes

“[…] to be grateful for the gorgeous performance it received from Christian Tetzlaff, one of the score’s most dedicated advocates. […] a fully committed performance. Is there a more physically engaged fiddle virtuoso before the public? On Thursday you could almost smell the rosin dust coming off his bow as he pressed deep into his violin strings, bringing out Szymanowski’s aching lyricism, his bright, intense sound soaring high above the staff. CSO audiences have heard several fine accounts of this concerto in recent decades – think of Nikolaj Znaider’s and Frank Peter Zimmermann’s – but, for me, Tetzlaff’s extra degree of incisive brilliance and fierce elegance trumped them both. […]”

Chicago Tribune, 02 June 2017 John von Rhein

“[…] Still Szymanowski’s work canbe undeniably effective in the right hands and with Christian Tetzlaff as solo protagonist such was the case. […] the soloist was fully engaged in the concerto’s restless rhapsodic style. The German violinist gave a wholly compelling take on this unwieldy piece, invsting the virtuosic bursts with his singular brand of bristly bravura and leaning into the surging lines with a slender, focused tone that skirted the schmaltz. […]”

Chicago Classical Review, 02 June 2017 Lawrence A. Johnson

“Tetzlaff’s focus on the long line and, for example, the smoothest possible transition between the first movement and the adagio, gives the piece an exceptional feeling of unity for all the passion; and the finale truly dances, with crisper than usual articulation supported by Storgards’ firmly rhythmic accompaniment.”

ClassicsToday.com, 27 March 2016 David Hurwitz

“I’ve always loved the playing of German violinist Christian Tetzlaff for its chiselled, slightly austere beauty; his approach is totally unsentimental, with no concern for dazzle. So the romantic grandeur with which he opens Suk’s Fantasy in G Minor came as a bit of a shock. So much vibrato! But then, he’s the kind of musician who gets under the skin of a piece and gives what the music needs, rather than applying his own house style no matter what. His performance of Dvořák’s Concerto in A minor is glorious and questioning: full-throttle in the chunky octaves and with a heavy bounce to the finale. But the real brilliance is in the vulnerability and tenderness he reveals in quiet melodies.”

The Gurdian, 10 March 2016 Kate Molleson

“[...] The Philharmonia’s strings brought warmth and intimacy to the Largo second movement before Tanja Tetzlaff entered with a highly expressive, heartfelt melody. Vogt played the meandering piano figurations with enormous sensitivity while Christian Tetzlaff and his sister sustained the melodic line beautifully. In the polonaise finale I particularly enjoyed the boisterous sense of gusto which Christian Tetzlaff brought to the dance rhythms. The dizzying scales were passed between the soloists in a seamless way and the Tetzlaff siblings combined to produce some highly imaginative textures. Orchestra and all three soloists joined forces to great effect in the exciting coda to drive this sterling performance to its conclusion.[...]”

Seenand heard-international.com, 04 February 2017, Robert Beattie

“[...] Beethoven’s Triple Concerto was given a lyrical outing within Järvi’s symphonic approach. There was none of the alltoocommon relaxation at the arrival of calmer melodies, but the elegant way in which the soloists yielded to one another as each in turn repeated or decorated the themes showed great rapport. The cello is generally the first to expound the opening ideas and Beethoven develops them in different ways – the first movement in Sinfonia concertante style but in the central Largo Tanja Tetzlaff announced the tune with utmost gentility before Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt expanded it in their different ways. The subtle entry of the Finale alla polacca has another subtle difference, each solo instrument commenting on the theme rather than varying it.[...]”

Classicalsource.com, 02 February 2017, Antony Hodgson

“The Tetzlaffs deftly negotiated every one, revealing, in the process, one of their most winning traits: an ability to give themselves up completely to a piece, regardless of its mood, message or duration.”

Financial Times, 06 January 2016 Hannah Nepil

“The players make declarations, pose questions, give answers, thrust and parry, chase each other, proceed in lockstep; there are moments of tender lyricism and of furious aggression – I’ve never seen string players subject their instruments to such apparently extreme maltreatment - but the Tetzlaffs encompassed it all with wit and impeccable virtuosity. This was a heroic performance.”

The Independent, 04 January 2016 Michael Church

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Discography

Beethoven TripelTriple Concerto, Piano Concerto No.3 Royal Northern SinfoniaSep. 2017, Ondine ODE 1297-2, CD, Available on: AmazonApple Music
J.S. Bach Sonatas & PartitasChristian Tetzlaff playing Sonatas and Partitas of Bach.Sep. 2017, Ondine, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon
Schubert HaydnSCHUBERT | HAYDNMar. 2017, Ondine, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon
Brahms: The Violin SonatasAug. 2016, Ondine, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon
Dvořák - SukJosef Suk Fantasy in G minor, Antonin Dvořák Violin Concerto in A Minor, Romance, Op. 11Mar. 2016, Ondine ODE 1279-5, CD, Available on: iTunes AmazonSpotify
Mahler Symphony No 4 (Erwin Stein Edition)Festival Ensemble Spannungen Mahler Record Prize 2015Jun. 2015, CAvi-music, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon
Brahms The Piano TriosMay. 2015, Ondine, CD, Available on: iTunes AmazonSpotify
Mendelssohn BergMENDELSSOHN · Streichquartett Nr. 2 a-Moll, BERG · Lyrische SuiteOct. 2014, CAvi, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon
Shostakovich Violin Concertos 1&2Christian Tetzlaff with the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and John StorgårdsSep. 2014, Ondine, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon
Schumann Violin SonatasSep. 2013, Ondine, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon
WidmannJörg Widmann: Violinkonzert, Antiphon, Insel der SirenenApr. 2013, Ondine, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon
Mozart: Sonatas for Piano and ViolinNov. 2012, Ondine, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon
Mozart - The 5 Violin ConcertosNew Release of the 5 Violin Concertos of Mozart with Christian Tetzlaff.Apr. 2012, Warner Classics, CD, Available on: Amazon
Karol Szymanowski: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No. 1Song of the Night: Violin Concerto No. 1 & Symphony No.3 by SzymanowskiNov. 2011, DG, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon
Mendelssohn & Schumann: Violin ConcertosChristian Tetzlaff plays Violin Concertos by Mendelssohn and SchumannNov. 2011, Ondine, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon
Schumann: Complete Works For Piano TrioComplete Works For Piano TrioApr. 2011, EMI, CD, Available on: iTunes Amazon

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