German cellist Anja Lechner has been an important proponent of cross-genre musical experimentation, especially in relation to tango music.
Lechner was born in Kassel, West Germany, in 1961. She studied in Germany with Heinrich Schiff and at the University of Indiana with János Starker. As a rising young cellist, Lechner won the Förder Prize of the City of Munich in 1990, and in 1992 she was the subject of a feature on German public broadcaster ARD. That year, Lechner co-founded the Rosamunde Quartet, which recorded mainstream works by Haydn and Shostakovich, but also essayed music by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov (Lechner and the Rosamunde appeared on the experimentally oriented classical/jazz label ECM's collection of Silvestrov chamber works entitled leggiero, pesante, which was nominated for a Grammy in 2002). She has also performed world premieres of works by Günter Bialas and Tigran Mansurian. These recordings brought Lechner further attention from ECM; she had already made her recording debut in 1998 with Tango Gift (with pianist Peter Ludwig) and, in addition to the aforementioned leggiero, pesante, she had joined a chamber group for a 2002 recording of music by Misha Alperin.
Many of Lechner's releases have been as part of chamber groups, performing either contemporary music or tango. Although she has been interested in the possibilities of improvisation, Lechner has avoided the jazz side of ECM's catalog. "Jazz plays a big role for me," she has observed. "But I do not play jazz. I would guess that after playing classical music for so long, this is a bit like comparing me to growing up in Upper Bavaria, but never having spoken Bavarian to my parents and therefore not me either. But I could do it." Among her most celebrated projects was Ojos Negros, produced in collaboration with the Argentine composer Dino Saluzzi and the Rosamunde Quartet; she toured the U.S. with these forces in 2007. In 2017 Lechner and cellist Agnès Vesterman released Hieroglyphen der Nacht, another album of music by Silvestrov.
© James Manheim /TiVo