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Antoine Tamestit ©Julien Mignot

Portrait Antoine Tamestit

A few years ago, when French viola player Antoine Tamestit performed Schoenberg's string sextet Transfigured Night together with some musical friends at a chamber music concert in the Kölner Philharmonie, there was a magical moment in the auditorium. It was one of those rare occasions when time seems to be suspended by the music and the players' intense engagement spreads out to the audience like electricity. You could hear the proverbial pin drop. The silence after that performance was louder than any applause and it exemplifies Antoine Tamestit's artistic personality. He is a quiet, reserved, self-contained musician, at least at first glance, and his interpretations are like that too. His profound and natural musicality is a constant source of wonder for listeners, as is his outstanding technique combined with the powerful emotionality and pure beauty of his richly coloured, deeply expressive viola tone. Reviewing his CD of Brahms sonatas, the classical music magazine Fono Forum observed, "Tamestit enjoys the privilege of playing on one of the few Stradivarius violas owned by a Swiss foundation. It has immense tonal potential. In the hands of a master, which Tamestit with his ever-versatile tone certainly is, the 1672 instrument flourishes, exuding a complex, multi-layered sound of mellow radiance."

Also performing at Tamestit's first residency concert is Cédric Tiberghien, the pianist with whom he recorded the Brahms sonatas. This too is typical of Tamestit: as he happily admits, his real love is playing chamber music with like-minded musicians, even if he is in great demand as a guest soloist on stages all over the world. Often he performs with artists who have been his friends and colleagues for years, so it is no surprise that his residency at the Kölner Philharmonie begins with a concert entitled Antoine Tamestit & Friends. His selection of pieces is not exactly one you encounter every day; it reflects Tamestit's curiosity and his penchant for configuring quirky concert programmes.

Born in Paris in 1979, Antoine Tamestit started off playing the violin but discovered the viola at the age of ten – he was captivated by its warm tone and its low sounds. He studied with Jean Sulem, Jesse Levin and Tabea Zimmermann. Before long he won a whole string of important competitions in quick succession including the prestigious ARD International Music Competition, which acted like a catalyst for his career. Tamestit rose quickly to become one of the best and most sought-after viola players, and he developed an impressively broad repertoire. Musically he is at home in every era, from the Baroque – his viola recording of Bach's cello suites is highly praised – right up to the modern day and contemporary music. He has had works written specially for him by various composers including a viola concerto by Jörg Widmann, the Concerto pour deux altos et orchestre by Bruno Mantovani, which was created for him and Tabea Zimmermann, and the viola concerto Remnants of Songs by Olga Neuwirth. The list could go on and on. For several years Tamestit was a professor at Cologne University of Music and at the Paris Conservatoire. He also teaches at the Kronberg Academy, a high-calibre training centre for up-and-coming string players, in the Taunus region. Fortunately for us, Antoine Tamestit still finds time to perform and his concerts are as good as guaranteed to be thrilling. This season you have three opportunities to hear him play in Cologne.

Portrait Antoine Tamestit Concerts

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