Love Has Been a Game Changer for Christian Tetzlaff
When love comes in
And takes you for a spin
Ooh la la la
---Cole Porter 1952 for ‘Can Can’.
The great violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff, in a recent telephone interview to talk about his December 17 solo recital in San Francisco as part of the Great Performers Series at Davies Hall, readily admitted that love had taken him ‘for a spin’ that profoundly changed his life.
When asked about the dramatic changes that have taken place over the past several years in both his appearance—from crew-cut and intellectual to a pony-tailed free spirit—and to his music-making—from somewhat dry and stilted (though always brilliant) to romantic, unencumbered and passionate—Tetzlaff explained, without missing a beat—“Seven years ago, I fell in love”.
Tetzlaff even changed his residence to accommodate his new life-style and look, from conservative banking center and conveniently located Frankfurt to free and easy Berlin where the violinist currently lives with his wife and three young children aged 5, 3 and 1.
Tetzlaff is taking his duties as husband and father as seriously as his professional responsibilities. He has cut back on his concert appearances from 110 to 80 a year--but said he will go back up towards the old number when ‘he is less needed at home’.
He also has jacked up the proportion of his chamber music concerts to about 25 percent of the total he performs each year to accommodate his frequent chamber partners, sister Tanya Tetzlaff the cellist and Lars Vogt the pianist (both superb musicians).
His most recent appearances in the Bay Area have been in chamber music with the Tetzlaff Quartet, the Tetzlaff Trio and in joint recital with Mr. Vogt.
On December 17 Tetzlaff appears alone on the Davies stage doing the Bach Partitas and Suites for Solo Violin.
Tetzlaff says performing the Bach works allows him the rare opportunity ‘to connect with the audience in a small space on a one to one basis’.
He loves the music and Bach experience so much so that he is willing to make the long trip from Germany to the US Pacific Coast for just two recitals-- Saturday evening in Portland, Oregon and Sunday at Davies Hall—before flying back to Germany for a month free with his family.
He emphatically denied making the trip to promote his critically acclaimed Deutsche Gramophone recording of the Bach pieces for solo violin. Commercialism is not what the new Tetzlaff is about!
Indeed, when I asked him what trends in the classical music world worry him most, he talked about those musicians and promoters who are trying to make classical music into a big money-making machine like pop music.
Its critics call classical music a ‘museum’ or ‘zoo’ and that’s ok with him—classical music he maintains never has been in the mainstream even in the great old days.
For Tetzlaff it is--and should be--an emotional discourse that reaches into the most intimate depths of our being, something that can not readily take place in athletic stadiums and mass gatherings like pop concerts.
Tetzlaff also is not wringing his hands over the fact that youths are not coming in great numbers to chamber concerts, resulting in older chamber music audiences. Older folks can be more in touch with their deepest emotions, have more time to appreciate the experience and develop their music sensibilities he argues.
And the German virtuoso is not down on the young for not coming to classical concerts; they are busy making careers and tending to their families. That takes time and energy. They will come, he asserts, when they are ready. Of course, Tetzlaff mostly operates in Europe and there youth attendance is far greater than in the US.
Christian Tetzlaff is part of a movement among today’s violin virtuosi making chamber music a greater part of their professional activities. There is James Ehnes, the terrific Canadian, who runs a chamber music festival in Seattle during the summer and the Dutch star Janine Jansen, who regularly plays chamber music with superb colleagues and who is currently being featured at Carnegie Hall.
No wonder Tetzlaff has such great confidence in the future of chamber music when the greats of our time are putting their very best efforts into it.