A universe of four dark strings

A universe of four dark strings

Two partitas (d-minor and e-major) and two sonatas (a-minor and c-major) for violin solo by johann sebastian bach: it was amazing how many people loved to be lured into the rossini hall on an ordinary but overheated monday evening. But it was not only the program that attracted, but also the interpreter: christian tetzlaff.

With him, one could be sure that the evening would not be a dry excursus on polyphony or a more or less laborious downplaying of three- and four-part chords. For christian tetzlaff understands this highly virtuosic music, even if at times it seems to have been created on a rubbing board, not in the least as abstract, but thanks to his technical sovereignty he can afford to create it in a highly emotional way.

That does not mean that he neglects the constructive. He plays precisely like no one else, cares about every note and has calculated the structures exactly. Because the fact that you have to play up to four single notes per chord (you can’t play more) is only part of the difficulty. The other is to emphasize the tones that are crucial for the melodic progression. Best example was the E major prelude. Christian tetzlaff played so rapidly that a theme of its own suddenly emerged from the upper voice as a metastructure, and in the lower voice the low notes of the chords became the basso continuo.

It was above all the design that was so impressive. Christian tetzlaff played without reservation. He did not slow himself down by aiming mainly at the gentle tone. That would have become boring after a short time. He dealt with it in a highly creative way, also saw the scratchy tone as an integral part of his concepts. He was very free with the tempi and did not slow down when it became more difficult, but when he wanted to intensify.

And this was often not in the harmonically thick chunks, but when the music became simple, monophonic, when it began to sing, as in the E major loure or the C major largo or the D minor sarabande with its sighing gesture. Even if christian tetzlaff baffled with his virtuoso grip in the fast, harmonically dense movements, he developed an enormous emotionality in the relative simplicity of the slow movements, which will have a long lasting effect.

It is perhaps a little unfair to the other movements, but the D minor chaconne was – not unexpectedly – outstanding. "For me the content of the chaconne is a dirge – or fear of death, or in parts longing for death", christian tetzlaff once said. And that’s how he played it: restlessly, with a certain driven quality, especially in the phases of harmonic compression – especially in the two arpeggios that build up, at the end of which the music plummets into an abrupt resigned unanimity. There you could feel what christian tetzlaff meant, this movement got symphonic dimensions.

What was already – but this is a statement that will certainly not meet with undivided approval: christian tetzlaff does not play a stradivarius, whose sound is not made for this music. Historically, bach could already have owned a stradivarius, because antonio stradivari was 31 years old when he played it. But it can be assumed that at the court of kothen he played string instruments from the not entirely bad thuringian-saxon production. Christian tetzlaff’s violin is an absolutely modern instrument, peter michael greiner built it in bonn in 2000. She has not only an excellent responsiveness, but also a very concrete, vital, a bit rough sound. It brings a certain grounding to life, showing music also as a work in progress with its working noises.

At the end, one was simply overwhelmed by the force and power of this one, small, four-stringed instrument. Christian tetzlaff was right to forego an encore: everyone was sweating enough already. And the D minor sarabande, with which he had so thrilled the audience as an encore last summer, had already been included in the evening program. The missing sonata and partita he will hopefully deliver someday.

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