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19/4/2019 Violinist Christian Tetzlaff on studying with Uwe-Martin Haiberg | Focus | The Strad

Violinist Christian Tetzla on


studying with Uwe-Martin
Haiberg
9 JULY 2015

The German musician's lessons with Haiberg at the Lübeck Musikhochschule were intimidating, but ultimately
invaluable, writes Nick Shave

You could print it on a T-


shirt: I studied with
Uwe-Martin Haiberg...
and survived! As
professor of music at
the Lübeck
Musikhochschule, and
my violin teacher from
the ages of 15 to 19 and
21 to 23, Mr Haiberg
was the rst teacher to
really push me. His
lessons were
often gruelling,
expectations were very
high and his
friendship was
overpowering. But
there are many others
in Germany who have
also learned so much
from him, such as Heime
Muller of the
Artemis Quartet and
Michael Mucke of the
Fontenay Trio.

When I began
lessons with Mr Haiberg at the Musikhochschule, I hit a crucial turning point in my playing. Up until that point I had
been studying with Professor Evelyn Distler, who took a relaxed approach to lessons. I was a strong sightreader and
had never really needed to practise more than one and a half hours each day, spending much of my time playing
pieces for enjoyment, but without really putting the work in. Haiberg made me focus on discipline and technique,
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19/4/2019 Violinist Christian Tetzlaff on studying with Uwe-Martin Haiberg | Focus | The Strad

rstly by making me practice double-stops, scales and arpeggios thoroughly, then with studies: Kreutzer,


Paganini and Dont.

Each week we met for at least a one-hour lesson, the  rst half of which was dedicated to scales and exercises. I had
already won two national competitions, and I made my debut with an orchestra when I was twelve, so his
thoroughness was initially quite intimidating: scales highlighted not only the  aws in my technique but also a high
level of inconsistency in my playing. With bow-control exercises, he pushed me to aim at a hundred per cent
accuracy, rather than relying upon luck. He also encouraged me to practise for up to three hours each day, starting
me off with the Vieuxtemps Concerto no.4, Wieniawski F sharp minor no.1 and the Beethoven.

But the Kreutzer Etudes were Haiberg's Old Testament. I learnt all of the studies by heart, addressing each of
their technical problems in the most basic manner. In order to get my vibrato under control, for example, I would
practise the  rst study with just separate hand vibrato, then separate arm vibrato, then in controlled speed with a
metronome matching the number of vibrato swings. It meant that my arm and hand vibratos became two
completely different entities: hand being for more relaxed expressions and arm sounding best in the higher
registers with lots of pressure.

We went through all the usual exercises, making studies sound like proper pieces and then stealing bits
of concertos in order to practise technique. But when it came to learning repertoire - and I learnt all the major
pieces with Haiberg, including the Mendelssohn and Tchaikovsky concertos - I would only learn from orchestral
scores. It made learning much harder because I would have to come up with my own ngering and bowing, often
arriving at interpretations that were dif cult to play. Still, it taught me to think for myself instead of just
imitating, for example, Carl Flesch's reading of Mozart, and it furthered my ability to understand the whole of each
work.

As well as our one-to-one lessons, Haiberg would also bring his pupils together for chamber music
performances three times a year. With all repertoire he was always very particular about meaning
and interpretation, taking each piece note by note, or phrase by phrase, in order to pinpoint exactly what it was
saying. He would often remind us that playing is like speaking and it was up to us as performers to preserve the
natural ow of phrasing and rhetoric of each work. At the same time as encouraging us to let the music breathe, he
would often get us to practise with a metronome, which formed the backbone of our playing.

Lessons with Haiberg were very good for me, and we shared a lot of fun times, cooking and eating together too. But
my levels of self-criticism became so intense that when it came to learning with Walter Levin at the
Cincinnati Conservatory I welcomed time away in the US. Through forming friendships on a personal level, Haiberg
could apply pressure to succeed. Some pupils obviously needed pushing, but those who failed to live up to his
expectations often found him impossible to learn with. For some it is a painful experience, but I was one of the lucky
ones.

Read Christian Tetzlaff's views on Beethoven's Violin Concerto cadenza.

This article was rst published in The Strad's March 2002 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital
edition as part of a 30-day free trial. To purchase single issues click here.

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