Gerhard Schulz: Digging out the essence of chamber music


– Play all the notes out and hold the bow like you were throwing and catching a ball. Imagine a marionett lifting you from your left hand base knuckle upwards, advises the gentle and encouraging voice of Austrian violinist Gerhard Schulz, a former member of the applauded Alban Berg Quartett and an experienced chamber musician.

Professor Schulz visited the Sibelius Academy in October 2016 giving a master class for violin students and chamber music ensembles. He grew up in a family where a common and enjoyed pastime activity was to play together.

– For me it was a very big thing to get to play with my older siblings, and it made me practice my parts very thoroughly, he says.

After recieving his first touch in chamber music at home he later became the youngest member of the applauded Alban Berg Quartett and also several other chamber music ensembles. Besides being an active chamber musician he has also shared his skills and wisdom to many students as a teacher. One of his students in Vienna was Réka Szilvay, now a professor of violin at the Sibelius Academy. Also Emmanuel Tjeknavorian, who came in second in the 2015 Sibelius Violin Competition, is Schulz's student. 

– For example, I try to encourage the students to use the higher part of the bow. When for example playing the Mozart concertos we also often talk about the music – what is the musical language the composer has used, what is the grammar of this musical language and so on. You can learn a lot from for example Leopold Mozart’s books and see what has been the original intended habit of playing. Teaching is always a give-and-take situation!

According to Schulz, a good chamber musician has the ability to carefully listen to other players – and the readiness to both follow and take the lead when needed. Based on a few days of teaching, his experiences of the Sibelius Academy students have been good.

– I have been lucky to have been able to work with many gifted students in the past. And it is marvellous how many gifted players you have here at the Sibelius Academy! As a teacher I try to be in the music – dig out the essence of music and what there is to be transmitted to the audience.

The chamber music especially from the classical era seems to be very dear to Schulz.

– I don’t know any boring Haydn quartets! He really made the basics for a lot of chamber music master pieces. As what comes to the future of chamber music, there are many young players wanting to dedicate their careers to it and we have many good chamber ensembles. But at the same time it gets more difficult for young musicians.