Christian Tetzlaff is a violinist blessed with that rare ability to reveal sensitivity and subtlety in each and every bow stroke. As he proved when tackling Brahms’ Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-3, however, it is the fact that this approach is combined with such precision, detail and perfection in rhythmic timing that makes the statements expressed feel so monumental. The same might be said of pianist Lars Vogt, who used his consummate understanding of the music’s architecture as the basis upon which to build the most feeling of interpretations.
In the opening Vivace ma non troppo of Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Op. 78 of 1879, Tetzlaff was able to give the impression of positively languishing in the 6/4 meter, while still ensuring that his output remained rhythmically precise. Throughout, Tetzlaff succeeded in conveying a sense of intrigue, whether that was in his capturing of the rocking rhythms, or in his pizzicato interspersed with ripe sounding bowing. The main theme of the central Adagio was carried off by Vogt and Tetzlaff in turn, both ensuring that a strong sense of nostalgia underlay their expressive playing. Tetzlaff tackled the rippling, running rhythms of the final Allegro molto moderato with aplomb, before the return to G major achieved some final lines of searing beauty.
The Allegro amabile of Brahms’ Violin Sonata in A Op. 100, perhaps most famous for its ‘imitation’ of the Prize Song from Die Meistersinger von Nüremburg, saw both Vogt and Tetzlaff build up a suitably intoxicating head of steam when required, while also effortlessly capturing those moments of infinite calm. This preceded Tetzlaff completing the movement with the most strident, rousing bowing. The Andante tranquillo – Vivace saw Tetzlaff revelling in the running, rippling passages, and interspersing his pizzicato with vibrant attack, before achieving a sensitive rise to the final flurry at the close. The Allegretto grazioso (quasi andante) was also characterised by a great evenness of sound.
The best, however, was saved until last when, after the interval, Tetzlaff performed Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor Op. 108. In the Allegro Tetzlaff applied exactly the right amount of pressure to each bow stroke while perfectly capturing the required rhythms. In the Adagio his playing was beautiful and nostalgic, without ever sacrificing that sense of gravitas that underlies the various episodes. The Un poco presto e con sentimento felt rhythmic and purposeful, and the final Presto agitato suitably intense in its ultimate assertion of D minor.
For their encores, the pair played two pieces in G major. Supreme amongst these was the performance of Mozart’s Sonata in G major KV379 in which Vogt executed the deceptively difficult rhythms with precision and flair, while Tetzlaff revelled in the fluttering bowing and underarm pizzicato. Although the concert was designed to present a coherent theme, the performing of additional pieces in no way undermined that, and the opportunity to experience such divine playing in two encores was certainly a welcome one.
This concert was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and will be available on iPlayer for a week.
Further details of Wigmore Hall concerts can be found at wigmore-hall.org.uk.