Kolja Lessing (born 15 October 1961) is a German violinist, pianist, composer and academic teacher. His focus as soloist and chamber musician has been neglected repertoire by composers who were ostracised under the Nazi regime. His recordings include four volumes of works by students of Franz Schreker in his master classes in Vienna and Berlin.
Lessing has taught violin at the Hochschule für Musik Würzburg and the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig, and has been professor at the State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart from 2000. He has been awarded numerous honours, especially for his dedication to the music of neglected composers.
Lessing was born in Karlsruhe. He received his basic music education from his mother. From 1978, he attended the violin master class of Hansheinz Schneeberger in Basel. There, he also studied piano with Peter Efler from 1979. He passed his concert examinations in 1982 and 1983. He also received formative impulses through his collaboration with Berthold Goldschmidt, Ignace Strasfogel and Zoltán Székely.
As a professor of violin, he taught at the Hochschule für Musik Würzburg from 1989 to 1993, at the University of Music and Theatre Leipzig from 1993, and followed a call to the State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart in 2000. From 1998 to 2015, he was a regular guest lecturer at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
Lessing has dedicated to wide-ranging repertoire, with a focus on works by composers who were ostracised under the Nazi regime, including Franz Schreker and his circle of students. He revived stylistically different compositions for solo violin by Haim Alexander, Tzvi Avni, Abel Ehrlich, Jacqueline Fontyn, David Paul Graham, Ursula Mamlok, Krzysztof Meyer, Klaus Hinrich Stahmer, Hans Vogt. Berthold Goldschmidt composed a work for him that he premiered. As a violinist and a pianist, he premiered compositions including the piano concerto Rivages solitaires by Jacqueline Fontyn, Rudolf Hindemith's Suite, Ignace Strasfogel's A Child's Day, the violin concertos by Haim Alexander, Sidney Corbett's Yael, works by Abel Ehrlich and Stefan Hippe, Zoltán Székely's Allegro, A une Madone by Dimitri Terzakis, and Le Violon de la Mort by Grete von Zieritz.
Lessing has recorded extensively both with violin and piano, including numerous first and complete recordings, also with a focus on neglected composers. He made a series of four CDs of music by composers who studied with Schreker, both as violinist and as pianist.
- Johann Paul von Westhoff: Complete Suites for Solo Violin (Capriccio)
- Georg Philipp Telemann: 12 Fantasias for Solo Violin (Capriccio)
- Ernst von Gemmingen: Complete Violin Concertos (cpo)
- Carl Czerny: The Art of Preluding, Op. 300 (cpo)
- Max Reger: Complete Works for Violin and Orchestra, Göttingen Symphony Orchestra, cond: Christoph-Mathias Mueller (telos music)
- Reger: Complete chamber music with Clarinet (Oehms)
- Ignace Strasfogel: Complete Piano Works (Decca)
- Franz Reizenstein: Solo Sonatas for Piano, Viola and for Violin (eda records)
- Franz Schreker's Masterclasses in Vienna and Berlin, vol. 1-4, with works by Karol Rathaus, Jerzy Fitelberg, Grete von Zieritz, Wilhelm Grosz, Vladas Jakubėnas, Berthold Goldschmidt, Zdenka Ticharich, Kurt Fiebig, Alexander Ecklebe, Felix Petyrek, Hugo Herrmann , Leon Klepper and Isco Thaler (eda records)
Compositions by Lessing are held by the Geman National Library, including:
- Sonata for clarinet solo 1978
- Two duos for clarinet and violin: The Journey into the Unknown 1979, The Beauty of a Dream 1980
- Gliding Figures for flute and viola 1998
- Sinking Mists for flute and alto flute 1998
- "Musiker Kolja Lessing erhält Otto Hirsch-Auszeichnung" (in German). Stuttgart. 26 January 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- "Kolja Lessing". Bechstein. Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- "Prof. Kolja Lessing / Fach: Violine" (in German). Musikhochschule Stuttgart. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
- "Kolja Lessing" (in German). Schott Music. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
- Richter, Elisabeth (6 January 2021). "Schrekers Kompositionsklassen / Lohnende Raritäten" (in German). Deutschlandfunk. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
- Kolja Lessing / Ulf Schirmer / Munich Radio Orchestra / Ernst von Gemmingen: Violin Concertos Nos. 1 & 2 Allmusic
- Kolja Lessing / Ulf Schirmer / Munich Radio Orchestra / Ernst von Gemmingen: Violin Concertos Nos. 3 & 4 Allmusic
- Rucker, Patrick: Czerny Piano Works (Zhao. Lessing) Gramophone October 2019
- Mabille, Olivier (25 August 2011). "Le concerto de Reger : une grande œuvre ignorée". resmusica.com (in French). Retrieved 4 March 2021.
- Dixon, Gavin (March 2012). "Max Reger (1873-1916) / Complete Works for Violin and Orchestra". musicweb-international.com. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
- Stephan Siegenthaler / Leipziger Streichquartett / Kolja Lessing / Max Reger: Integrale Kammermusik für Klarinette AllMusic
- Rucker, Patrick: Strasfogel Piano Works Gramophone March 1998
- Kolja Lessing / Franz Reizenstein: Solo Sonatas AllMusic
- Louis, Uncle Dave. "Kolja Lessing / Franz Schreker's Masterclasses in Vienna and Berlin, Vol. 3". AllMusic (in French). Retrieved 11 March 2021.
- "Compositions by Kolja Lessing" (in German). German National Library. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
- Alain Pâris: Klassische Musik im 20. Jahrhundert. 2nd edition. DTV, Munich 1997.
- Hans-Klaus Jungheinrich: Unser Musikjahrhundert. Residenz Verlag, Salzburg 1999.
- Christoph Kammertöns, Siegfried Mauser (ed.): Lexikon des Klaviers. Laaber-Verlag, Laaber 2006.
- Ingo Harden, Gregor Willmes: Pianisten Profile. Bärenreiter, Kassel 2008.
- Ulrike Kienzle: Die Robert-Schumann-Gesellschaft Frankfurt (1956–2016). Verlag Frankfurter Bürgerstiftung, Frankfurt, 2016.