The music of Johannes Brahms has long been close to Emmanuel Tjeknavorian's heart. Now, with the WDR Symphony Orchestra under Cristian Măcelaru, he has recorded Brahms' Violin Concerto and Zwei Gesänge,op. 91 with Anna Lucia Richter and Andreas Haefliger. On this album he not only plays the violin, but also the viola.
He has never followed the familiar path: Before Emmanuel Tjeknavorian took second place in the prestigious Sibelius Violin Competition in 2015, the Viennese artist had already embarked on the conducting path. He returned to this in 2018 and decided to devote himself entirely to conducting from the 2022/23 season. Until then, he will maintain the balancing act, always seeking a challenge: together with the WDR Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Cristian Măcelaru, he recorded Brahms' Violin Concerto for the album "Brahms - Violin Concerto & Songs," which will be released on September 24 by Berlin Classics - and briefly swapped the violin for the viola. Thus he accompanies the singer Anna Lucia Richter together with the pianist Andreas Haefliger on Zwei Gesänge, op. 91: "Gestillte Sehnsucht" and "Geistliches Wiegenlied". For Brahms' well-known "Wiegenlied" as well as "Wie Melodien zieht es mir" however, he takes the violin again.
The Romantic concerto is considered highly challenging; among the words repeatedly quoted about Johannes Brahmsʼ Violin Concerto are those of Hans von Bülow: This concerto, full of technical difficulties, was written against and not for the violin. "In contrast to Mendelssohn's concerto, Brahms' violin concerto is a symphonic work," says Tjeknavorian, "You have to think like an architect and create very clear structures. It's important to dose your energy well, not to use up your power too quickly and to consider when you have to open up emotionally and when you have to act in terms of structure. Using up your energy too quickly is not good for the work and yourself."
For Brahms' Lieder op. 91, he picked up the viola himself. "I find it fascinating that the viola introduces the melody in both songs. That shows how important the viola part was to Brahms," says Tjeknavorian. The two pieces for mezzo-soprano, viola and piano were a sensational find for him: "The music put me in a trance-like state and moved me to tears. At first I thought that listening to it was fulfilling enough for me, but then I changed my mind and briefly cheated with the viola."
Recording the Brahms album has been on Emmanuel Tjeknavorian's mind for a long time: "Brahms is one of the composers who are in my head, my heart and my ears every day. There is no other composer I have performed like this. Brahms has become a role model for me as an artist because he managed to find the golden mean between emotio and ratio in his work - in Brahms, both the intellect and the heart are deeply satisfied." The search for this golden balance accompanies Emmanuel Tjeknavorian both on the violin and on the podium: "A few years ago, the emotional part of my playing was higher. Since I have been conducting and thus analysing a lot, I am very fascinated by structure. Taking Brahms as a model, I am keen to find the balance in the further years of my career, because with such an attitude, making music can never become routine."