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.
Christian Tetzlaff is regularly invited as Artist in Residence with orchestras and at events, in order to be able to present his musical interpretations over a longer period of time, which has been the case with the Berliner Philharmoniker and at Wigmore Hall in London. In the 2018/2019 season he was Artist in Residence with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra and the Dresdner Philharmonie, and in the 2020/2021 season he will receive this honour with the London Symphony Orchestra. Three concert blocks, under the baton of Antonio Pappano, Susanna Mälkki and Robin Ticciati, are scheduled for the season after next.
Throughout his career Christian Tetzlaff has appeared with all the major orchestras, including the Wiener Philharmoniker, the New York Philharmonic, the Concertgebouworkest and all of London’s leading orchestras. He has worked with conductors including Sergiu Celibidache, Bernard Haitink, Lorin Maazel and Kurt Masur, but more recently with Barbara Hannigan, Christoph von Dohnányi, Paavo Järvi, Vladimir Jurowski, Andris Nelsons, Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Michael Tilson Thomas, to name but a few.
Highlights of the 2019/2020 season included concerts with the National Symphony Orchestra Washington and
Christoph Eschenbach, the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra with Manfred Honeck, the Deutsches SymphonieOrchester Berlin with Robin Ticciati and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester with Karina Cannelakis. Some events will be postponed to the coming season, including invitations from the Metropolitan Orchestra New York, the Berliner Philharmoniker, the Festspiele Baden-Baden, the Orchestre de Paris and Philharmonia Orchestra. A concert with the hr-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt was performed without an audience on the internet. The planning for the 2020/2021 season includes tours to Australia and the USA, as well as a tour with the Bundesjugendorchester, with the Kammerakademie Potsdam and invitations to the Budapest Festival Orchestra, Mozartorchester Lugano and Orchestre National de Belgique.
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 regard to the “performance tradition” and 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 founded his own string quartet in 1994, and to this day chamber music is as close to his heart as his work as a soloist with or without orchestra. Every year he undertakes at least one extensive tour with the Tetzlaff Quartett, as in the past season with concerts at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Philharmonie Berlin, Palais des Beaux Arts Bruxelles and Wigmore Hall London and in 2020/2021 at the Théâtre des Champs Elysée Paris, among others.
The Tetzlaff Quartett was awarded the Diapason d’or in 2015 and the trio, with his sister Tanja Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt, was nominated for a Grammy award. Christian Tetzlaff has also received numerous prizes for his CD recordings, including the “Jahrespreis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik” in 2018, the “Diapason d’or” in July 2018 and the Midem Classical Award in 2017; most recently, his new recording of the violin concertos by Beethoven and Sibelius with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin under Robin Ticciati was released on Ondine in autumn 2019 and has been enthusiastically received by the press and the general public.
Of special significance is his solo recording of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas, which he has recorded for the third time and was released in September 2017. The Strad magazine praised this recording as “an attentive and lively answer to the beauty of Bach’s solos”. They are now also an integral part of his concert calendar. For example, he opened the last season of the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival with a solo recital in the sold-out Great Hall of the Elbphilharmonie, and has also appeared as a soloist in St. Petersburg, Moscow and the Philharmonie Berlin. In the 2020/2021 season he performs additional solo recitals at the Alte Oper Frankfurt, the Pierre Boulez Saal Berlin, Kulturpalast Dresden and St Luke’s Centre London.
Christian Tetzlaff plays a violin by the German violin maker Peter Greiner and teaches regularly at the Kronberg Academy.