Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77
The Mermaid, fantasy for orchestra
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 Beethovenʼs Violin Concerto with Daniel Harding.
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 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 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.
Essential to this approach are the courage to take risks, technical brilliance, openness and alertness to life. 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. 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. He plays a violin made by the German violin maker Peter Greiner and teaches regularly at the Kronberg Academy.
In the 2017/2018 season 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 and Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich under the baton of conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Sir Simon Rattle, Paavo Järvi, Manfred Honeck and Robin Ticciati.
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.
One of today’s most sought-after conductors, Vladimir Jurowski was born in Moscow in 1972, and completed the first part of his musical studies at the Music College of the Moscow Conservatory. In 1990 he relocated with his family to Germany, continuing his studies at the Musikhochschule of Dresden and Berlin, studying conducting with Rolf Reuter and vocal coaching with Semyon Skigin. In 1995 he made his international debut at the Wexford Festival, and the same year saw his debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden.
This season Jurowski takes up the position of Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. He also celebrates ten years as Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic, having been appointed in 2007 following four years as the orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor. In addition he holds the titles of Principal Artist of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Artistic Director of the Russian State Academic Symphony Orchestra, and Artistic Director of the George Enescu International Festival, Bucharest. He has previously held the positions of First Kapellmeister of the Komische Oper Berlin (1997–2000), Principal Guest Conductor of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna (2000–2003), Principal Guest Conductor of the Russian National Orchestra (2005–2009) and Music Director of Glyndebourne Festival Opera (2001–2013).
Jurowski enjoys close relationships with the world’s most distinguished artistic institutions. He works annually with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, and appears regularly with the London Philharmonic at festivals including the BBC Proms, the George Enescu Festival of Bucharest, Musikfest Berlin, and the Dresden, Schleswig Holstein and Rostropovich Festivals. He collaborates with many of the world’s leading orchestras.
Highlights of the 2017/18 season and beyond include his debut with the Czech Philharmonic, and tours of major European cities with the Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra and the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. He opens his first season with the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. With the London Philharmonic he spearheads a series focusing on Stravinsky, and conducts performances of Enescu’s Oedipe, Wagner’s Das Rheingold and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, and tours to Germany and Japan. Operatically, highlights include a return to the Opera National de Paris in the original 1869 version of Boris Godunov.
A committed operatic conductor, Jurowski made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera New York in 1999. He has conducted at the Welsh National Opera, the Opera National de Paris, Teatro alla Scala Milan, the Bolshoi Theatre, with the State Academic Symphony of Russia, and at the Semperoper Dresden, as well as at Glyndebourne Opera. In 2015 he returned to the Komische Oper Berlin, and made his debut at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, and in 2017 made an acclaimed Salzburg Festival debut, and his first return to Glyndebourne as a guest conductor.
The 2017/18 season sees releases of discs of Strauss and Mahler with the Rundfunk-Sinfoniorchester Berlin, and Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky with the State Academic Symphony of Russia. His tenure as Music Director at Glyndebourne has been documented in numerous CD and DVD releases including award-winning productions of Tristan und Isolde, Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, Ariadne auf Naxos, Falstaff, La Cenerentola, Rachmaninov’s The Miserly Knight and Prokofiev’s Betrothal in a Monastery.
Johannes Brahms started work on his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 77 in 1878. He dedicated the piece to his friend, the violinist Joseph Joachim (1831–1907), who was born in Kopčany near Bratislava (in today’s Slovakia). Brahms first heard the young violinist in 1848, when he performed Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in Brahms’s native city, Hamburg. Five years later, the two artists met again in Hanover, and began a life-long friendship. Though only two years Brahms’s senior, Joachim was already renowned in the musical world as a performing artist. It was he who introduced Brahms to Robert Schumann, who predicted that the young Hamburg-born composer would have a great future and praised his talent by declaring that he would take music on “new paths”.
When composing, Brahms placed his full trust in Joachim’s advice. The cadenza at the end of the first movement of the concerto, then still an opportunity for soloists to display their technical brilliance, was left entirely to Joachim’s own imagination. The structure of the concerto itself, however, was strictly of Brahms’s own making, and the work that resulted defies the conventions of the virtuoso concertos of its time. Brahms goes beyond the conception of an instrumental concerto – where the technical and expressive artistry of the performer play the main role – towards a symphonic conception. The work is not remarkable for its virtuoso brilliance; the solo part is integrated into the orchestral sound. For instance, the second movement is opened by a solo from the oboe, while the soloist waits a relatively long time for their entry. The first movement has much in common with the first movement of Brahms’s second symphony, composed concurrently; indeed the two sections share the same key. The second movement of the concerto continues to impress today with its lyricism, while the third, particularly, with its “Hungarian” character, is typical of Brahms.
“Far out in the ocean the water is as blue as the petals of the loveliest cornflower, and as clear as the purest glass. But it is very deep too. It goes down deeper than any anchor rope will go… From the deepest spot in the ocean rises the palace of the sea king. Its walls are made of coral and its high pointed windows are of the clearest amber, but the roof is made of mussel shells that open and shut with the tide. This is a wonderful sight to see, for every shell holds glistening pearls, any one of which would be the pride of a queen’s crown.” This is the opening of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy-tale about the little mermaid who saves a prince from a shipwreck, falls in love with him and yearns to obtain a human soul because of him. She cannot win his love, however, and the prince marries a human princess. The unfortunate mermaid can only return to her folk if she murders the young couple – something she finds herself unable to do.
The story of the unfulfilled love of a fairy-tale creature for a human being, known to the Czechs in their favourite form in Dvořák and Kvapil’s Rusalka, captivated many artists at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and received varied treatments. One such work was the play Pelléas et Mélisande by Maurice Maeterlinck – which almost concurrently inspired Gabriel Fauré, Claude Debussy, Arnold Schoenberg and Jean Sibelius – and Alexander Zemlinsky’s Die Seejungfrau, subtitled “fantasy in three movements after Andersen’s fairy-tale”, which deals with the same topic. It was premiered on 25 January 1905 at a concert held by the Vienna-based Society of Creative Musicians (Vereinigung schaffender Tonkünstler in Wien), founded that year by Alexander Zemlinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, the conductor Oscar Posa and Gustav Mahler. Schoenberg’s symphonic poem Pelleas und Melisande was also performed at the same concert.
Zemlinsky originally envisaged a work in two parts consisting of two sections each. The first section was to depict the seabed, the next the mermaid, the human world, the storm and the rescue of the prince. In the second part, the first section was to be dedicated to the mermaid, her desire and a visit to a witch; the second section was to represent the prince’s wedding and the mermaid’s demise, after which she would be transformed into “the daughter of the air”. The final three-movement work, however, does not feature this level of detail. The modern conception of a symphonic poem that Zemlinsky was seeking to achieve did not impose a definite notion on the audience. The 1980s, which rediscovered the musical “Secession”, brought the oeuvre of Alexander Zemlinsky and its fragile beauty to the concert stage. The extent to which the work depicts Andersen’s story is entirely up to the listener’s imagination. Surely, though, the lone voice of the violin belongs to the mermaid, and there is no doubt where in the music the sea-storm begins.
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