Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Violinist Mathias Tacke: Bach as a lifelong companion

Originally from Bremen, Germany, Mathias Tacke is best known to many listeners as the second violinist with the former Vermeer Quartet.

Like many other Bach Week Festival musicians, he has an astounding proficiency in diverse classical genres.

He was a member of the Ensemble Modern, which gave premieres of works by many of the 20th century's leading composers, including Frank Zappa. He has appeared on recordings for the Sony, ECM, Harmonia Mundi, Teldec, and Cedille Records labels.

Tacke, who will be soloing April 30 in a Bach Week Festival performance of Bach's Concerto in C Minor, BWV 1060, says the composer's music has been a lifelong companion:
"Bach's music has always been with me, even since childhood, and it is amazing to realize both the continuity that it provides in my musical life, as well as the constant change.

"Although this can be said about every great composer's music, Bach almost more than any other composer polarizes one's taste and yet survives any 'fashion' of interpretation. We constantly refine and change our performance practice, and at the same time we can't help but remain children of our time, formed by our contemporary (musical) environment.

"I for one use an Italian violin from the 18th century, but with a 'modern' setup, which means a longer neck, synthetic strings, high tuning, and also a modern bow, different from those used in Bach's time, although no one is really certain about the exact bow Bach used when playing the violin.

"It has not been very often that I have played the Concerto for Oboe and Violin, but I do remember the first time I played it: It was winter, and I was 14 (and quite sick with tonsillitis).

"There have been changes in my approach to performing Bach's music since my early teenage years: I use less vibrato and an overall lighter, more transparent sound, perhaps a little less 'singing' in favor of a little more 'speaking.'

"Bach 'recycled' and transcribed his own compositions, often for different purposes and instruments. This concerto was reconstructed for violin and oboe from an existing manuscript in D-minor for two harpsichords and orchestra. There are two reconstructions available, one in D-minor and the other in C-minor. I have always played the concerto in the key of D-minor, but I already know that I prefer this version in C-minor, perhaps because of its darker and somewhat more relaxed sonority, which seems to suit both solo instruments very well.

"Oboist Judy Kulb and I have already had the privilege of performing part of this concerto in Boston, on the occasion of the wedding of Bach Week Festival music director Richard Webster and Bart Dahlstrom."

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