Tetzlaff, Vogt bring illumination and intensity to duo recital

March 31, 2014 at 12:25 pm

By Aaron Keebaugh

Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt joined forces for a recital Sunday afternoon at Jordan Hall for the Celebrity Series.

“In fifty years one will find it obvious,” Anton Webern said of his own music, “children will understand it and sing it.”

Nearly seventy years after his death, Webern’s prediction has yet to materialize, and his music still gets a bad rap for its spiky lines, bristly tone, and seemingly directionless form.

As part of their wide-ranging Celebrity Series recital at Jordan Hall Sunday afternoon, violinist Christian Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt offered a shimmering rendition of the composer’s Four Pieces, Op. 7 that was memorable for the expressive depths drawn from this austere music.

That may seem odd considering that Webern’s music, which would become the model for the post-war avant-garde, is remarkable for its concision. Four Pieces, completed in 1910, together last about five minutes.

Yet this is music of arresting beauty. The whistling tones that Tetzlaff pulled from his violin hovered in midair. Vogt’s scattered chords left harmonics in their wake, the sound circling overhead like a halo. The soaring line of Bewegt, the fourth of the set, died away into brittle tones in a single melodic arch—compressed romanticism at its finest.

The show-stopper of the afternoon was Bartók’s Violin Sonata No. 1, which featured the duo in equally rich and adventurous territory.

The 1921 sonata, despite its boundary-pushing harmonic landscape, is rooted firmly in romantic idioms. With an amber-hued tone, Tetzlaff gave his rhapsodic lines the sound of a gypsy fiddle. Vogt answered with fury, playing the music’s thick chords and deliberate statements with thunderous force. The duo made deft work of the finale’s barn-burning folk dance.

Most affecting was the second movement, where Tetzlaff brought a singing quality to the meandering lines and glassy sonorities. Vogt’s Debussy-esque harmonies that accompanied seemed to wander freely.

In an age when music for violin and piano tended to favor the former, Mozart’s Sonata in B-flat major, K. 454, which opened the recital, made dexterous use of both instruments.

Tetzlaff gave the slow introduction the lyricism of an art song. The ensuing Allegro had bite and urgency, with Vogt leaning into the grace notes and mordents for chiselled phrases. In the second movement, the musicians burnished their free-flowing lines with carefully-placed cadences.

Listening to the duo, one could hear Mozart pushing at the limits of the genre. Their rapt attention to the shifting statements and sudden accents in the finale gave the music a weighty, almost Beethovenian character.

And for the actual Beethoven sonata that closed Sunday’s program, the musicians covered the full range of the music’s light and shade.

Beethoven’s Violin Sonata in C minor, Op. 30, no. 2 dates from the troubling years when composer struggled to come to terms with his increasing deafness.

The duo’s dramatic interpretation sometimes trumped their precision. Extraneous string noises often got in the way of Tetzlaff’s more technical passages. And even though Vogt hammered out the music’s brusque accents for effective contrast, the articulation and ensemble balance were often lost in the fury.

Yet this turbulent music breaks frequently into spry themes and passages of warm lyricism. Tetzlaff and Vogt supplied lovely singing tone for the aria and variations of the Adagio. The Scherzo, taken at a brisk pace, had the romp of a Ländler, and their sparkling reading of the finale put the exclamation point on the afternoon’s program.

For encores, the musicians offered the fourth and second movements from Dvořák’s Sonatina in G major, Op. 100.

The Takács Quartet will complete their survey of Bartók’s strings quartets 8 p.m. April 11 at Jordan Hall. celebrityseries.org

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