Christian Tetzlaff has been one of the most sought-after violinists and most exciting musicians on the classical music scene for many years. “The greatest performance of the work I’ve ever heard,” wrote Tim Ashley (The Guardian, May 2015) of his interpretation of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra and conductor Daniel Harding.
Concerts with Christian Tetzlaff often become an existential experience for the interpreter and audience alike, old familiar works suddenly appear in a completely new light. In addition, he frequently turns his attention to forgotten masterpieces such as Joseph Joachim’s Violin Concerto, which he successfully championed, or the Violin Concerto No. 22 by Giovanni Battista Viotti, a contemporary of Mozart and Beethoven. To broaden his repertoire, he also commits himself to substantial new works, such as Jörg Widmann’s Violin Concerto, which he premiered in 2013. He has an unusually extensive repertoire and performs approximately 100 concerts every year.
Born in Hamburg in 1966 and now living in Berlin with his family, there are three things that make this musician unique, aside from his astounding skill on the violin. He interprets the musical manuscript in a literal fashion, perceives music as a language, and reads the great works as narratives that reflect existential insights. As obvious as it may sound, he brings an unusual approach in his daily concert routine.
Christian Tetzlaff tries to fulfill the musical text as deeply as possible – without indulging in the usual technical short-cuts on the violin – often allowing a renewed clarity and richness to arise in well-known works. As a violinist Tetzlaff tries to disappear behind the work – and paradoxically this makes his interpretations very personal.
Secondly, Christian Tetzlaff “speaks” through his violin. Like human speech, his playing comprises a wide range of expressive means and is not aimed solely at achieving harmoniousness or virtuosic brilliance.
Above all, however, he interprets the masterpieces of musical history as stories about first-hand experiences. The great composers have focused on intense feelings, great happiness and deep crises in their music; Christian Tetzlaff, as a musician, also explores the limits of feelings and musical expression. Many pieces deal with nothing less than life and death. Christian Tetzlaff’s aim is to convey this to his audience.
Significantly, Tetzlaff played in youth orchestras for many years. In Uwe-Martin Haiberg at the Lübeck Music Academy, he had a teacher for whom musical interpretation was the key to mastering violin technique, rather than the other way round.
Christian Tetzlaff plays a violin by the German violin maker Peter Greiner and teaches regularly at the Kronberg Academy.
He lives in Berlin with his wife, the photographer Giorgia Bertazzi, and three children.