Tetzlaff Receives Ovation After Energetic Recital

Colin Roshak

German violinist Christian Tetzlaff presented a daunting program of over 90 minutes of works for solo violin last Friday. This was no easy feat, but Tetzlaff was up for the challenge. He strode confidently onto the stage, greeted by enthusiastic applause, and wasted little time delving into the music.

The program featured Bach’s Sonata No. 3 in C major and three modern pieces that demonstrated Bach’s influence on later composers. Tetzlaff’s rendition of the sonata was charming and entirely organic. Each phrase flowed seamlessly into the next, aided by an impeccable sense of rubato. The second movement was the centerpiece. Tetzlaff delicately balanced the intertwining subjects above well-struck harmonies. In the Largo, Tetzlaff played with a rich, beautiful tone while maintaining a certain lightness necessary for performing Bach. The only interruption came from the occasional dropped phone or cough in the audience.

The Bach sonata was bracketed by pieces heavily influenced by the composer’s writing. Tetzlaff prefaced the Bach with Eugene Ysayë’s Sonata in G minor. The structure of the first of Ysayë’s six sonatas for solo violin resembled Bach’s sonatas; in the second movement fugue, Ysayë tips his hat to the master of the form. Tetzlaff played energetically and brilliantly emphasized the piece’s changing characters and colors. The shifts to extended techniques were effortless and never disrupted the music. Following Bach, six short pieces by György Kurtág were played. Selected from a volume of 16 miniatures for solo violin titled Signs, Games and Messages, each of the selections took on its own distinct character. The first movement, “Hommage à J.S.B.,” showed Kurtag’s admiration for Bach, yet hardly resembled the baroque master’s own writing.

Béla Bartók’s immense Sonata for Unaccompanied Violin was at the center of the second half of the program. The combination of baroque forms and techniques and unmistakably Bartókian harmonies and melodic language made this piece a difficult undertaking for any violinist. However, Tetzlaff held his ground under the unrelenting hammering of virtuosic passages and unworldly technical demands. Of all the pieces on the program, the Bartók sounded the most polished. The 26-minute piece whisked by, aided by Tetzlaff ’s varied use of timbre as well as his breathtaking dynamic control.

The concert was an immense success. After a standing ovation and guttural screams of “Bravo!” from a stomping crowd, Tetzlaff ended the night on a tender and sentimental note with the Andante from Bach’s Second Violin Sonata.