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Antoine Tamestit

Antoine Tamestit © Birkenholz (Ausschnitt)

Antoine Tamestit

With his wide-ranging technique and performance, which veers between «the most extreme drama to lucid fragility», Antoine Tamestit’s repertoire ranges from the viola concertos of Neuwirth and Schnittke to works from earlier periods. But it’s not only the concerto literature that interests him, but also chamber music works from Brahms to Penderecki as well. And Tamestit will demonstrate the wide spectrum of his ability in Vienna – on a Stradivari viola dating from 1762.

Viola players are constantly searching for their own special place in music. «We don’t always know whether we’re chamber musicians or soloists, whether we want to play recitals or perform with an orchestra,» Tamestit said in an interview. It was for this reason that Jörg Widmann wrote a viola concerto for him in 2015, a work that theatrically depicts a sort of self-exploration. The score entails stage directions denoting the different positions in the hall that the player has to stand in during the performance. The star viola player says he can «relate to the idea that this journey can help me to discover my instrument. What comes from my heart, what comes from my gut, what are the emotions?»

Articles about Antoine Tamestit frequently use vocabulary normally associated with singers. They talk of a «rich, burgundy-coloured timbre», of «delicately nuanced phrasing» and «soulful intensity». «On top of it all I’m married to a singer!», he says. «I try to take my inspiration from this sound that simply emerges naturally out of the body. This includes this endless legato and this meaningful breathing between individual phrases.» It comes as no surprise that Olga Neuwirth called the viola concerto that she wrote for Tamestit in 2009 «Remnants of songs». Her solo piece «Weariness Heals Wounds I» forms part of a recital which Tamestit will perform with chamber music partners. Also on the programme is a classic such as Schubert’s Arpeggione-Sonata or a rarity such as Loeffler's «Le son du cor s'afflige». Tamestit himself admits that he learns modern classics like a student, slowly and with a metronome. «But with pieces such as Schubert's Arpeggione-Sonata or Schumann's Märchenbildern, which I know inside out, I'm more inclined to take risks and experiment.»

His concerts and CD recordings bear witness to his commitment to lesser-known works for viola, and includes works by Max Reger, Henri Dutilleux and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Even if Hector Berlioz wrote of the viola's «deep melancholy» in his Treatise on Orchestration, for Antoine Tamestit it has become an instrument with which he can expand the limits of the solo repertoire and explore new dimensions of its tonal spectrum, «starting with the wonderful depth of the C-string up to the singing high A-string.»