Published: June 5, 2013
Keyboardist Peter Biro remembers the first time he saw violinist Michaela Paetsch perform.
It was 1974. Paetsch was 12 and debuting as a soloist with conductor Charles Ansbacher and the Colorado Springs Symphony (now the Colorado Springs Philharmonic) after winning a competition.
She performed Mendelssohn's E minor Concerto and blew Biro away.
"I couldn't believe a child could do that," he says during a recent rehearsal with her. "She was a little child playing like a mature adult. She was a huge inspiration."
The two musicians eventually became friends and will perform sonatas by Franck and Mozart on Friday at the Fine Arts Center.
The Paetsch family is a local musical legend. Paetsch's mother, Priscilla, played violin, and her father, Gunther, played cello. They were both members of the symphony for more than 30 years.
"I remember as a baby, being taken to concerts," says Michaela, 51, who was born and raised in the Springs.
At 3 years old, she was ready to play.
"She begged for lessons," Priscilla says. Her mother had to order a 1/16 size violin from Chicago, Michaela recalls, that came in a "cute" case.
Not only were her parents professional musicians, but her six brothers and sisters all played string instruments, too. They eventually formed their own nine-piece group: The Paetsch Family Chamber Music Ensemble. Five of the siblings are now professional musicians.
Michaela, the second oldest, broke new ground by joining the Colorado Springs Symphony at 13, making her the youngest member ever. At one time, there were five Paetsch family members playing alongside each other in the orchestra. She and her mother shared a music stand.
The young violinist spent her teenage years winning solo competitions and earned a full music scholarship to Yale University, where she studied with Szymon Goldberg, a famed violinist and conductor. She also studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where gifted young musicians train for professional careers.
Paetsch's passion for music is obvious in online videos and reviews of her performances. During a recent rehearsal, she squealed and stamped her feet excitedly, like a little girl, as she talked about recently being asked to play a Beethoven concerto next June.
"The playing of Michaela Paetsch is silky, poetic, wonderfully inflected - utterly convincing and captivating," wrote Gerald Fischbach, a violin soloist and recently retired violin professor at the University of Maryland. "How many things she can insinuate in one note. Her tonal control is outstanding, never a note less than gorgeous."
Paetsch lives in Switzerland with her husband, who is also a violinist. She performs around the world with various musicians who accompany her on piano, harpsichord and accordion. She has performed in New York City's Carnegie Hall and Avery Fischer Hall and the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
She also composes music and gives private lessons and master classes.
During rehearsal, she polished off a portion of "Carmen Fantasy, Op. 25," by Pablo de Sarasate.
"It is so great to have so much repertoire in my hands and in my heart."
How does she manage to memorize such complex music?
"I have a knack for that," she says. "It just comes from heaven."
Jennifer Mulson can be reached at 636-0270.
With: Peter Biro, pianist
Repertoire: Sonatas by Franck and Mozart
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Music Room, Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.
Tickets: $20; 634-5583, csfineartscenter.org