Why Christian Tetzlaff's statements are important and what it all has to do with resonance.

This week, an interview with Christian Tetzlaff in Strings Magazine caused a little sensation on the internet.

Concert violinist Tetzlaff answers the question, what he would tell today's young generation of violinists. His answers compounded can be understood as the guidelines for a free musician, for whom career and technique are viewed as elements of a whole: in service of the music, in service of the emotion and communication.

"Live a musical life without armor" is the title of the interview. For Tetzlaff, this is about doing things that allow musicians to experience music - not through practicing the whole day but by sight-reading with fellow musicians, playing in the orchestra, living your everyday life. For Tetzlaff, teachers should be teaching music rather than violin; sadly, many instructors remain at the level of instrumental how-to and don't go beyond that.

Also, as a musician you aren't there to follow the composer's will only, but to add your own experience, emotion, to bring everything that you are into the music. "You have to make it your own", says Tetzlaff. To show yourself on stage just how you are, without protection, without armor, without hiding.

The duality of a musician's life

It's the eternal duality of the musician - to want it (practice, rehearsal, preparation) and at the same time to let go of the results, not to want it. When the way we act, the music can develop "by itself": these are the greatest moments for artists and audience. That's what we all wish for, and for which we all work.

Because we know: it's not enough anymore to play well. Something more is required of us. At the same time, the pressure on young (and not so young) concert soloists has risen very high. How to withstand, how to stand out?

Two paths to a musical life

I see two paths to achieve this. One of them is the path of perfection. It consists of trying to eliminate all eventualities through painstaking preparatory work. This path, admittedly, leads to some success, and it's the one taught at most schools. However, there is the risk of sounding like one's teacher, or not to differentiate oneself enough from other very skilled players. Tetzlaff: "That was always the main preoccupation of the violin schools —Russian or American, for example —to make violin playing easier, to make it perfectly successful and safe, but —from my point of view— utterly uncommunicative."

The other path is the personal path. Each of us is unique. You are unique. Because no-one feels and plays the Brahms sonata like you do. For that reason, it's worth to experience you live in concert, for that reason, I gladly go and listen to you. And in this field you are second to none.

Why audiences go to concerts

On closer examination, that is the only reason why audiences go to concerts at all. The audience wants to experience a human being on stage, and it wants to be moved. When the player then gives himself on stage, these are the true moments of happiness for musicians and audience.

It's also not an easy path. Tetzlaff encourages violinists not to be afraid of being emotionally vulnerable on stage. The more vulnerable you are in life, the easier it becomes to transmit to an audience successfully. For that reason, it's also the path of life experience. "When you practice eight hours a day, you literally drop out of life - you are not there anymore. The selffulfilling prophecy is that you are great because you practice so much. That is rubbish." It's life which gives us the substance of expression.

Armor and resonance

"In the long run, it’s better to live life without armor. Armor might save you some pain, but as a musician you become meaningless. Many soloists go onstage invincible and impeccable, but not communicating about the composer and the music's emotion. The look-at-me attitude is the last thing our music should have. One should not go onstage with this idea of being adored. It takes away all the essential qualities of the music."

Yes, those of you who have had the experience know: to surrender on stage is true happiness. Sometimes, it just happens. But do we have influence over it? How can we create those situations out of ourselves? Shall we just think about it just before going on stage? Or isn't our job rather to create the space, in our everyday lives, in the way we practice, in the way we teach and in the way we treat one another, so that music can just be, and we don't have to protect ourselves, so that it can just unfold?

Armor is the opposite of resonance. Resonance means: something vibrates with something else. The moment you have to protect that something (put your hand over it), it can't vibrate as freely.

Our job is to give our resonating as much room as possible, so that it can vibrate freely. 

And, with time, to make our surroundings vibrate with us.

Read Christian Tetzlaff's interview on String Magazine here.

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