Some dreams come true, others don’t. I spent my childhood in a picturesque village in Germany, and all I wanted was to own a beautiful violin. My earliest memories of music are from my first day of school – we had a teacher who had just come from college who loved and understood music. He gathered us all in a circle in front of the classroom and we started to sing. From then on, every day throughout my primary school years, we sang. But he also wanted me to play the violin and ended up convincing my parents to buy one so that I could take lessons.
I had some wonderful violin teachers who introduced me to the depths of music, but my father was very afraid that I might drift and that I couldn’t sustain a livelihood in the world of music and art. I too was afraid that I wouldn’t be good enough. Eventually I realised that even with practise, I could never satisfy my ears, and so I stopped playing. In the end, my life ended up taking a very different path, and so I supppose I never got the violin I really wanted.
“Childhood dreams do come true sometimes, but often in unimaginable ways”
I can’t remember the first time I ever heard JS Bach’s Violin Sonata No 3 in C Major, but I’ll never forget how Christian Tetzlaff played it at this year’s Verbier Festival in Switzerland. It’s been played so many times but when I heard it here, it was like entering into another dimension of time. What absolutely struck me was that Tetzlaff played on a contemporary instrument. Sometimes I wonder how he would have sounded with a Stradivarius, but to be able to produce that sound on any instrument was fascinating. His phrasing, his transparency, and the purity of his sound captivated me. It was as though it had been created right there in that moment. I witnessed a veil being lifted into a world beyond the material. And suddenly I knew, whatever I had decided beforehand, this would be the piece of music I could not live without.
The deep-seeded wish to own a beautiful instrument resurfaced two years ago when I was at the Stradivarius Museum in Cremona. Seeing these amazing instruments behind glass reminded me how important this was for my younger self, that little girl wanting to hear the sounds and the nuances these amazing instruments can produce.
In 2009, we initiated a project to buy a quartet of rare string instruments by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini for the Australian String Quartet. I think it must have been that very intuitive, unconscious wish and admiration for fine old instruments, which was never fulfilled, that gave me the courage and the confidence to contribute 50 per cent of the purchase price myself.
When the UKARIA Cultural Centre was completed in 2015 and I stepped inside it for the first time, I realised the concert hall is an instrument in itself. Hearing the ASQ play our Guadagnini’s at the opening concert was a reconciliation of my past with my present. Childhood dreams do come true sometimes, but often in unimaginable ways. It’s something that almost happened beyond me, something that created itself – like Tetzlaff’s Bach.
The Music I Couldn’t Live Without
Bach: Violin Sonatas & Partitas
Christian Tetzlaff v, Erato 5099952203428
When I came out from hearing Christian Tetzlaff live for the first time at Verbier Festival this year, I bought his CD, took it home with me and I’ve never let go of it. When I sit down and listen, it brings me back to that beautiful time and connects me to a peacefulness within. For me, Bach is the bridge between our physical world and another world of cosmic possibilities. His music always connects us to something larger than just our physical lives.