Enthusiasm, curiosity and a capacity for self-reflection characterise Antje Weithaas’ personality. Thanks to these qualities and her captivating musical expressiveness, the violinist is a busy soloist and chamber musician as well as a highly-regarded teacher. Many of her former pupils are now successful professionals, some of whom will be on stage with her in the concert on 15 March. In the interview, Antje Weithaas tells us why the programme is so much fun for her and what is important to her as a musician and teacher.
The concert on Tuesday will be something very special for everyone involved. How did the idea for the evening come about?
The initiative came from the musicians. When they approached me and asked me if I would join in, I was really moved. I was very happy, especially because they also took care of the organisation, which is not a matter of course.
They are playing string music of the Romantic and Modernist periods. What aspects were used to put the programme together?
Since the concert is part of the “Lost Generation” series, we were given the task of playing a work by a composer who belongs to this “lost generation”. So we decided on the Partita by Gideon Klein. Otherwise, we were free to let our imagination run wild. Of course, we had to see what was possible for our small ensemble, what fitted together, where the musicians presented themselves well and which works we enjoyed.
You are also the soloist in Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in D minor ...
I think it's a great work that is unjustly played far too seldom. Of course, you can tell that Mendelssohn was only 13 years old when he wrote the concerto, but you can feel his genius in every note. The concerto already has that energy and liveliness typical of Mendelssohn.
The programme opens with the Partita by Gideon Klein. A work written by the composer in the Theresienstadt concentration camp. Can you hear in the piece the conditions under which it was written?
The Partita seems to radiate a great joie de vivre, but there is also another level. I think you can hear very well in the second movement the mental state Klein must have been in. In this respect, his work is similar to Bartók’s Divertimento, which closes the programme. It was written shortly before the beginning of the Second World War and clearly shows Bartók’s desperate emotional state. As with Klein, the second movement reveals how downcast the composer was. Although the Divertimento is folk-like and full of effects, it also has great depth and an enormous emotional range.
What emotions are we dealing with in Tchaikovsky’s Serenade?
For me, Tchaikovsky is a very elegant composer, with an incredible sense of yearning. He was not really recognised by his Russian colleagues, he remained an outsider. I hear in his works a tendency towards French music, but also his Russian soul. His music – especially in the Serenade – resonates like a dance. It is melancholic, poetic, delicate. You can feel that Tchaikovsky was a great ballet composer.
You are not only a soloist and chamber musician, but also a much sought-after teacher. Being allowed to study with you is considered a musical accolade. What does a violinist have to possess in order to attract you as a teacher?
I want to enjoy listening to them, to be moved by their playing and to feel a kind of musicality and a need to communicate that can't really be taught. I can give the young people the tools, we can talk about music and analyse it, but if you don't have the willingness to show your emotionality, to bring out your innermost feelings with the help of the instrument, then it will just remain a craft.
I asked one of your students what makes you so special as a teacher. And he said that no matter how well prepared he was when he came to your lesson, you always found many aspects that he could then continue to work on. What is important to you when you teach?
My actual idea is to encourage young people to think for themselves and to promote a willingness to constantly reflect on everything and to always approach a piece with a new perspective. It is also important to me to give the students the confidence to work in this way. It is important to me that they create a very individual interpretation from the score and with the knowledge of the composer's emotionality.
When you now sit on stage with your former students, who have all embarked on very successful careers, what feelings do you have?
It’s a wonderful feeling. I think it's great to experience that my suggestions have fallen on fertile soil, and I'm delighted to see how much they have developed artistically.
Interviewer: Nicole Restle