Tetzlaff Switch Hitter?

May 21, 2009 at 05:07 AM ·

Hi everyone,

I attended a recent concert at Avery Fisher Hall with the New York Phil. Soloing that night was Christian Tetzlaff playing Shostakovich 1. As some of you may know, there was a change to the original program that night due to Esa Pekka Salonen's health (he pulled out at the last minute due to back problems). Originally Tetzlaff was to perform the Szymanowski which I would have loved to hear. Perhaps another time.

In any case Tetzlaff played with the music on a stand— but the truly noteable thing was that he had a second bow resting on the shelf below the music. Sure enough, he switched bows between the 2nd and 3rd movement, and then switched again between the 3rd and the 4th. I've actually been fortunate enough to see him perform several times over the past few years, but never saw him switch bows during a performance. In fact I've never known anyone to do so in the middle of a piece.

Do any of you out there know what bows he actually performs with? I know he endorses Arcus, but does he really play with them? Do any of you have any idea why he switched bows? Here is a picture that accompanied a NYT review. I'll also try to attach a link to the review.


Replies (25)

May 21, 2009 at 06:08 AM ·

I never seen soloist changing bow between movements either, but I'd really like to know that:

1. What do you think about the sound he produced and how the sound carry over the orchestra? Since he's famous for ditching his strad and play a contemporary Peter Greiner, and I know big part of the sound is the player himself but I'm just curious.

2. He's also one of the Arcus bow user, but from the photo (and other video clips) I guess he didn't use Arcus all the time. I'm too an Arcus bow owner, but I'm starting to go back to wooden bow nowadays due to some funny phenomenon, and swtich between them for different style of music.

May 21, 2009 at 06:33 AM ·

Oh, this isn't about what I thought it was going to be about.  :-\

That's a great idea though -- if you've got 2 great bows, and the piece (or rather your performance of it) could benefit from a quick switch, why not do it?

Although it could be a slippery slope from there to "I'll be right back, I can't play the Adagio in this dress."  :-P

May 21, 2009 at 01:10 PM ·

In terms of carrying power his Greiner easily soared over the orchestra. I was in row J center so not in a good place to judge how well it carried to the back of that cavernous Avery Fisher Hall. Over the past couple of years I was in the market for a new fiddle and went to the trouble to try out Mr. Greiner's instruments because of their reputation, part of which was due to Tetzlaff's endorsement. It was a fantastic instrument, incredibly responsive and powerful. I ended up going a different direction due to the price (~$44k at the time if I remember correctly), and because physically it seemed a little broad in the upper bout making it difficult for my small hands to handle high positions on the G string.

As for the quality of his sound, I always find his playing lean with incredible clarity. Unfortunately for my taste, in the Shostakovich this lead to an overly edgy sound. His movements were if anything larger than I've seen in the past which did prove to be a minor distraction. His commitment to his music making and his ability to convey that to the audience remains superlative. He received 4 rounds of standing ovations after which he played an encore.

May 21, 2009 at 01:28 PM ·

Perhaps he was shopping for a new bow and couldn't decide which he liked better :)

May 21, 2009 at 02:33 PM ·

Chris - Thanks for the first hand informations!

Daryl - Hahaha good one! Who knows if he did?

May 22, 2009 at 10:21 PM ·


What strikes me as odd is that he switched bows for the third movement but not the first. The writing in the second and fourth movements is so agressive and percussive that I can see a concert artist wanting something more like a E.A. Ouchard or Sartory to get enough power and articulation, in contrast with Peccatte, Tourte, Voirin, etc. for a warmer sound in the slow movements. But why for the third and not the first as well?

May 22, 2009 at 10:34 PM ·

Schostakovich concerto is not my favorite but I do love the lovely slower (3rd?) Mvt.  Perhaps he changed his bow for this one?  Maybe he has an "heavier" bow for the aggressive parts?



May 23, 2009 at 12:39 AM ·

 I think it makes sense to have different bows for different things. In having one type of multi-purpose bow there are bound to be compromises. Isn't way we play with one bow for everything a bit like a golfer having one club for all types of shots?

May 23, 2009 at 03:07 AM ·

To some extent, Chris, but you're never going to see a pianist switch pianos during a concerto performance!

May 23, 2009 at 01:03 PM ·

interesting.  Was in orchestra backing up Nadja S. S. about 10 years ago, and she brought on two bows for this very same concerto.  I can't recall the exact moment when she switched, but she did indeed switch every night, and it wasn't because she broke the 1st one (or too many hairs to wrench out).  She must have had a strategic reason. 

I can't help but wonder if the Passacaglia is so sprawling and alone, a violinist might wish for a different bow here - dunno.

I wouldn't even discount the possibility that he was test-running bows, and wanted to do the testing in the realest of real situations.  The mind, the nerves, the air, the body are sort of at a constant, and trying out two bows under these circumstances, although brave!, could be a very honest and revealing way of finding things out.


May 23, 2009 at 08:14 PM ·


but then he shoudl have told the audienc en advance and asked their opinion at theend That would also have ensured increased attention and less coughing...



May 23, 2009 at 08:33 PM ·

Good idea, Buri!

May 23, 2009 at 09:34 PM ·

Maybe the rental time of one bow expired right then so he ha to use one whose rental or lease time had not expired yet. : )

May 24, 2009 at 12:52 AM ·

Bow Idol:)

May 25, 2009 at 12:14 PM ·

Is there any col legno in the Shostakovich?  Everytime we get col legno in the orchestra everyone goes off to change their bow as well.

May 25, 2009 at 08:19 PM ·


that`s why its called col legno. Comes from the Latin `Colin,   leggit for yer cheap bow.` 



May 26, 2009 at 04:14 AM ·

So those movements with col legno will never sound good due to everybody using inferior quality bow, lol.

May 26, 2009 at 05:12 AM ·

Yes, it's an elementary composition rule; only write col legno if you want player(s) to use their worst bow for that movement. 

May 26, 2009 at 08:30 AM ·


you guys never seem to do your homework.  At some time during the classcial period a certain composer who shall be nameless wanted the effect of pounding feet and cases being hurriedly opned and closed for a scene in an opera in which a husband pursues a an unfaithful wife and consort who have to flee hurriedly from their motel room.    It took too much space to write the direction in detail so she just wrote `col legno` knowing it would achieve te desired effect.



May 26, 2009 at 01:49 PM ·

Great review, btw, (and great pic of him).  Wish they would have mentioned more about the two bows, however. Very interesting topic.

June 27, 2009 at 05:17 PM ·

I had the pleasure of hearing Tetzlaff twice with the Vienna Philharmonic recently playing Szymanowsky´s Violin Concerto. On this occasion I asked him about using the two bows in the Shostakovich.

He used his Pecatte and his Arcus bows and said that Pecatte did not make his bows for the more powerful passages in the two movements in which he used the Arcus. This one performs this wild stuff really well. For the calmer movements he prefers the Pecatte. Makes sense.

Best, Hans

August 5, 2009 at 05:15 PM ·

The joy of finally getting an intelligent answer in a discussion:

"He used his Pecatte and his Arcus bows and said that Pecatte did not make his bows for the more powerful passages in the two movements in which he used the Arcus. This one performs this wild stuff really well. For the calmer movements he prefers the Pecatte."

August 6, 2009 at 04:13 AM ·

I find wooden bow does give more sweeter and colorful sound than the Arcus especially when doing softer passages, though doesn't mean Arcus cannot produce as good result but good wood will naturally give you this ability. Recently after I fixed my bow hold and suddenly it released the potential of the Arcus, and it really is something entire different world that you can do very loud passages and yet remained very focused and clear.

August 7, 2009 at 04:47 AM ·

Arcus is a truly wonderful bow!

July 7, 2010 at 08:55 AM ·

Maybe not the same concert, but it's play the same piece of music. You can hear the clear differences between 2 bows...





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