Agata-Maria Raatz is not just a violonist, but also a singer and composer – a combination equal parts versatile and promising. While Bach is at the center of her new CD, the surrounding pieces are also intriguing: new and newly discovered music for violin and voice.
The partitas for solo violin by Johann Sebastian Bach belong to the foundational canon of the violon repertoire, especially the second partita with its famous chaconne towards the end. Yehudi Menuhin has called this work the “greatest structure for solo violin in existence,“ and for Joshua Bell, the chaconne is not just one of the “greatest pieces of music ever written, but also one of the greatest human accomplishments in history. It is a spiritually strong piece, emotionally strong, structurally perfect.“ Here, Bach has concluded and perfected something rooted in earlier musical works, for example in the music of Jean-Paul von Westhoff. With the album “Echo of BACH,“ Raatz discovers these roots and continues their growth into the present.
“Discovering the works by Westhoff to me was like finding a key element which filled a crucial lacuna in my musical journey. This work is the first polyphony for solo violin which has survived to this day,“ Raatz explains. Westhoff was regarded as one of the most outstanding violinists of his time. His six suites for solo violin were likely an inspiration for J. S. Bach’s six sonatas and partitas. In the year 1702/03, the two composers crossed paths in Weimar. It is highly likely that they met each other and that the young Bach
familiarized himself with Westhoff’s oeuvre. Raatz comments on this by including motives from Bach’s chaconne in Westhoof’s suite, following the improvisatorial musical praxis of their time.
This recording is further enriched by more recent pieces, among them “Forgetmenot“ by Clara Jaz, the composing alter ego of Raatz. She felt inspired to write this piece by her family history, among other things – in this case the story of her grandfather, who survived the hellish death marches from Stutthof concentration camp and fled to freedom, where he purchased the violin on which Raatz began her career. Inspired by Bach’s chaconne, on the other hand, is “Cette âme a six ailes tout comme les Séra-phins“ (This soul has six wings like the seraphim) by Xavier Dayer. “The balacing between worlds, subtle nuances, and extreme emotions are the font in which this work is written,“ explains Raatz, who also proves with the second sonata by Eugène Ysaÿe that she feels at home in the Romantic solo repertoire as well. This piece likewise has connections to Bach, the “lovely God of music,“ as one documentary TV series once titled.
Agata-Maria Raatz belongs to a new generation of artists which combine innovative ideas with tradition. She is the author of many projects in which she fuses music with other art forms. In addition to her work as a solo violonist, she composes under the pseudonym Clara Jaz. Her compositions and interpretations have been broadcast on BBC, SFR 2, Catalunya Radio, Polish Radio 2, Radio New Zealand, Sveriges Radio and other stations.
Since her concert debut with the Koszalin Symphony Orchestra at the age of eleven, Agata-Maria Raatz often performs with a diverse range of orchestras. Early engagements were with Camerata Zurich, Bern Symphonz Orchestra, Krakow Symphony Orchestra, and Camerata Bern. Raats has worked with com-posers like Krzysztof Penderecki, Bernard Haitink, Douglas Bostock, Anton Steck and Gordon Bragg. As a passionate chamber musician, she has collaborated with Nigel Kennedy as a member of his ensemble “Orchestra of Life.“ Raatz has played concerts at famous stages like the Royal Albert Hall in London, Symphony Hall in Birmingham, Tonhalle Zurich, Lutosławski Hall in Warshaw, and KKL Lucerne. In addition, she has been a guest at renown festivals like the Murten Classics Festival, Swiss Chamber Music Festival in Abelboden, and the Schleswig-Holstein Musikfestival.
Agata-Maria Raatz has received many important awards, among them the Grand Prize Virtuoso in London and the Orpheus and Hibou-Prize in Switzerland. Furthermore, she was awarded a special prize by the cultural ministry of Poland for her extraordinary musical work. Raatz has gained many impulses and lots of inspiration for her own stylye through collaborations with outstanding masters like Zakhar Bron, Benjamin Schmid and Bartłomiej Nizioł. Together with pianist Marcin Fleszar, she regularly performs as the creative “JAZ Duo“ and presents a broad spectrum of musical pieces, ranging from early baroque music to contemporary sounds. Agata-Maria Raatz plays on the violin of Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume from 1844.