The German violinist, Christian Tetzlaff, was born in Hamburg. His parents were amateur musicians and met in a church choir. He began playing the violin and piano at the age of 6, and made his concert debut at 14 years old. He studied with Uwe-Martin Haiberg at the Musikhochschule Lübeck and later with Walter Levin at the University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music. From the former he studied that musical interpretation is the key to violin technique – not the other way around. He played in youth orchestras for many years.
Christian Tetzlaff's breakthrough as a soloist came in 1988, at the age of 22, when he performed Arnold Schoenberg's Violin Concerto in critically acclaimed concerts with the Cleveland Orchestra and the Münchner Philharmoniker. The following year he made his solo recital debut in New York. He has continued to play as a soloist with major orchestras on stage and in recordings, including L.v. Beethoven's works for violin and orchestra performed with the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich under David Zinman.
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 L.v. Beethoven's Violin Concerto with Daniel Harding. In the Frankfurter Rundschau Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich called it virtually a “rediscovery” of this frequently played work.
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. He joined his sister Tanja (cello) and Leif Ove Andsnes (piano) in winning the 2012 Gramophone Award for best chamber recording (playing Robert Schumann's piano trios). His recording of R. Schumann's violin sonatas with Lars Vogt (piano) was named Gramophone's recording of the month for January 2014. His other chamber music partners include pianists Alexei Lubimov and Matthias Kirschnereit, violist Antoine Tamestit...
Other critically acclaimed recordings include his 2007 release of J.S. Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin (BWV 1001-1006), and his 2012 release of three W.A. Mozart's violin sonatas with Lars Vogt. His discography includes a number of modern works such as the violin concertos of György Ligeti and Stuart MacRae. In 2011 he signed a long-term recording contract with Ondine. Tetzlaff has also received numerous awards for his solo CD recordings. In September 2017, his recent solo recording of J.S. Bach's Sonatas and Partitas ((BWV 1001-1006)) was released.
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. He served as Artist in Residence with the Berliner Philharmoniker, 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 Wiener Philharmoniker and New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the Concertgebouw Orchestra Amsterdam and London’s leading orchestras, working with leading conductors like Andris Nelsons, Robin Ticciati and Vladimir Jurowski. Other orchestras he has played with include Hamburger Symphoniker, Kammerorchester Basel, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, Orchestra of St. Luke's, Pforzheim Chamber Orchestra, Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim...
Apart from his tremendous expertise on the violin, there are three things that make the musician 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 he 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.
Christian Tetzlaff plays a contemporary violin by the German violin maker Stefan-Peter Greiner which he has had since 2002, preferring it to his previous Stradivarius instrument. He uses a Peccatte bow, and Vision strings by Thomastik-Infeld in Vienna. He eschews routinely playing the violin with the full, lyrical sound preferred by many of his contemporaries, telling The New Yorker: "The listener loses the ear for the most beautiful sounds if they've been used for arbitrary, non-important things". This approach has occasionally left Tetzlaff open to criticism. The Guardian's critic Andrew Clements argued that his recording of the R. Schumann's piano trios, mentioned above, lacked "any sense of involvement or affection for the music", and that his 2014 release of Dmitri Shostakovich's violin concertos was sometimes devoid of "character".
In the 2017-2018 season Christian Tetzlaff can be experienced on four continents, among others with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and London Philharmonic Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and TonhOrchestra Zürich under the baton of conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Sir Simon Rattle, Paavo Järvi, Manfred Honeck, Robin Ticciati and Vladimir Jurowski. 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.
Christian Tetzlaff teaches regularly at the Kronberg Academy. Among is pupils is Alina Ibragimova. He currently lives in Berlin with his family t