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Christian Tetzlaff plays Bartók with MTT and San Francisco Symphony

Violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff
Violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff
Courtesy San Francisco Symphony (with permission)

Violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff is the guest artist with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony this week in a program of music which includes Bartók’s Violin Concerto No 2 and the Symphony No 4 by Brahms.

Christian Tetzlaff has been a frequent visitor to San Francisco since his debut with the Symphony in 1961. His performance and recording repertoire covers a broad spectrum of composers - ranging from Bach, through 19th century masterworks by Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Brahms, to the music of 20th century composers including Bartók, Berg and Shostakovich.

Mr Tetzlaff is regarded as one of the finest ambassadors of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, and is well known for his love of chamber music, having founded the Tetzlaff Quartet in 1994. Named Musical America’s 2005 Instrumentalist of the Year, Mr Tetzlaff was also a Carnegie Hall Perspectives artist in 2010-11, an initiative in which musicians are invited to curate a personal concert series in Carnegie and Zankel Halls.

Bela Bartók wrote what is now known as his Second Violin Concerto in 1937, dedicating it to violinist Zoltán Székely who had requested Bartók to compose a concerto for him. Although not known to have played the violin himself, Bartók produced what is regarded as some of the most challenging music written for the instrument. According to Phillip Huscher, program annotator for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, in his Violin Concerto No 2 Bartók “gave the instrument one of its greatest and most demanding solo roles”. The work was premiered by Székely with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam, under Willem Mengelberg, on March 23, 1939.

Brahms’ Fourth Symphony - his last - is thought to have been composed during 1884-85 in the Austrian mountain town of Mürzzuschlag. Brahms himself conducted the first orchestral performance of this towering, grandiose and emotional work at Meiningen on October 25, 1885, a work regarded as one of his most profound achievements. (San Francisco Symphony)

The first work on the program is Sibelius’ Lemminkäinen's Return from Four Legends from the Kalevala, a collection of ancient Finnish myths.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony, with soloist Christian Tetzlaff, at Davies Symphony Hall on May 14, 16 and 17, and at the Mondavi Center for the Arts at UC Davis on May 15. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

On Sunday May 18, the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra presents a concert featuring Siegfried’s Rhine Journey by Wagner, Haydn’s Symphony No 104 - the London Symphony - and Also sprach Zarathustra by Richard Strauss. Known as one of the finest ensembles of its kind, the Youth Orchestra - comprising over 100 young instrumentalists - has been described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “an ensemble that can play with the sweep and vigor of any of its more experienced adult counterparts”. Conducted by Donato Cabrera, the Orchestra performs at Davies Symphony Hall at 2.00 pm on Sunday. For tickets and further information, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

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