This past Sunday, audience members braved Chicago’s sturm und drang weather for a triumphant recital by violinist Christian Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt at Symphony Center. They are consummate musicians who set aside all ego in pursuit of the composer’s intentions. There were no showy gyrations or self-indulgent rubato to be found. Instead, Tetzlaff and Vogt used precise technical mastery to draw every ounce of passion out of the music.
The afternoon opened with Mozart’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in B-flat Major, K. 454. For this work, Tetzlaff crafted his tone with a rich center and feathery edges. The first and third movements sparkled with youthful energy. The second movement was an effortless aria which benefited from Tetzlaff’s gravity-defying bow arm. In one notable spot, he crescendoed from piano to fortissimo in a single, unbelievably long bow stroke.
Next, the duo cast aside all decorum as they ripped into Bartok’s Sonata No. 1. This piece spans an emotional spectrum of frenzied Hungarian dances and mournful melodies. No matter how chromatic or rhythmically complex, Tetzlaff and Vogt executed each note with astounding clarity. In contrast, the whisper-soft mellow sections created a sense of timelessness. Vogt brought maniacal fervor to the rapid Hungarian dance at the close of the final movement.
After intermission came Webern’s Four Pieces for Violin and Piano, Op. 7. This composer’ s cerebral 12-tone compositions can be difficult to digest. However, the duo made this work approachable by bringing vivid character to each of the brief movements (the longest of which is only 24 measures). The first movement was as delicate as a water spider tiptoeing across a pond, while the second movement was romantic and vehement. The third and fourth movements were barely audible yet lovely.
The final work on the printed program was Brahms’s Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108. The performance of this piece was unabashedly romantic without becoming maudlin. The luscious second movement found Tetzlaff venturing into upper reaches of the violin’s G and D strings for a sense of gut-wrenching passion. The final movement showcased the duo’s unanimity of spirit and impeccable ensemble playing.
Following several standing ovations, the duo returned to the stage for an encore. Vogt thanked everyone for coming despite the dreadful weather, then asked, “How did you get here? Did you swim?” The performers then closed the evening with the last movement of Antonin Dvorak’s G Major Sonatine.
Photos: Christiane Tetzlaff credit Alexandra Vosding, Lars Vogt credit Felix Broede
- Tetzlaff String Quartet at the Hop (vttoday.com)