Twin Cities three major classical music organizations collaborate for performances by violinist Christian Tetzlaff.

March 12

By Rob Hubbard
Pioneer Press

"We should get together and do something sometime."

Friends say that all the time. And so did the Twin Cities' three main classical music presenters: the Minnesota Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Schubert Club. For a few years, they had been talking about engaging a major international artist for concerts with each organization.

The unprecedented collaboration comes to life over the next couple of weeks when German violinist Christian Tetzlaff performs a violin concerto by Polish composer Karol Szymanowki with the Minnesota Orchestra. plays a solo violin recital under the auspices of the Schubert Club and puts on three hats during an SPCO program - soloist with the orchestra, member of a small chamber group and concertmaster for a symphony.

Last week, we talked to Tetzlaff from his home near Frankfurt, Germany, and asked him about mixing it up, bowing while biking and bucking the conventional wisdom when it comes to violins.

You're playing eight works by seven composers in five different configurations. You seem to like variety.

This is what I love. It's totally different music, and I don't want to miss out on any of it. I chose all of them for a purpose. Szymanowski is just one of the most beautiful violin concerti that we have, and it is unknown to most people. So this gap in knowing it I love to bridge, because everyone is always so enthralled by it. But another really wild dog is the (George) Enescu Octet, which is practically never played. It's a stroke of genius from a 19-year-old composer.

The concerts seem to line up as big, small and right in between, with a lot of stylistic shifts.

The shifts I don't mind at all. It is like an actor going into different directions. Or somebody reciting different poems and hopefully giving different colors to each of them. The moment I hear the opening of the piece, I get deeply involved with it. I'm almost in a kind of trance of beauty and excitement.

You just finished playing piano trios in four European cities in four nights and are performing the Brahms Violin Concerto in four Chinese cities. Looking forward to settling down in the Twin Cities for two weeks?

That will be nice. It will be good for my body, because I will have a training bike in my room. I can practice on the bike, so I can get in a little better shape than I am now.

You play your violin while riding a stationary bike?

Is that difficult to picture? It beats watching television.

About your violin: Much was made of it when you chose to stop playing a Stradivarius and instead use a violin made by Peter Greiner.

I don't care what it is, as long as it has good sound for me and can be used for many, many different things. I need an instrument that really can beat the (crap) out of the Bartok Concerto and at the same time can play Bach solo sonatas sweetly and clearly. The instrument I had before couldn't jump that far.

Do you think there's too much fetishization of the Stradivarius?

That is safe to say. Some sound glorious, but it can be a weak or a strong instrument. Those guys, Guarneri del Gesu and Stradivarius, built the most beautiful instruments for a long time. They were the master builders of the time, but there's no reason that there cannot be master builders now.

Rob Hubbard can be reached at

Who: Violinist Christian Tetzlaff

What, when, where and tickets: Performing a Karol Szymanowski Violin Concerto with Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra; 8 p.m. Friday, March 16, and Saturday, March 17; Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis; $84-$26; 612-371-5656 or

Solo recital of works by Eugene Ysaye, J.S. Bach and Bela Bartok; 8 p.m. Monday, March 19; Ted Mann Concert Hall, 2128 S. Fourth St., Minneapolis; $20-$12; 651-292-3268 or

Performing works by Mozart, George Enescu and Joseph Haydn with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; 7:30 p.m. March 22, Temple Israel, 2324 Emerson Ave. S., Minneapolis; 8 p.m. March 23, Wayzata Community Church, 125 E. Wayzata Blvd., Wayzata; 2 p.m. March 25, Benson Great Hall, 3900 Bethel Drive, Arden Hills; $25-$5; 651-291-1144 or