Christian Tetzlaff, violin, and Lars Vogt, piano. Shalin Liu Performance Center, Feb. 12, 2017
Take two distinguished performers, energetic and eager to explore. Take four major sonatas, each worthy of detailed exploration, diverse and surprising.
But never put them all together on the same program.
Or maybe you should.
In the dynamic of concertizing, performers often follow sensible rules. Like the orchestral “overture, then concerto, then symphony” rule. Something warm-up–able, something knotty, something big and shiny. If nothing else, if helps out the audience.
Christian Tetzlaff and Lars Vogt have no need for such nonsense. Sunday afternoon’s recital at the Shalin Liu Performance Center, surely the highlight of Rockport Music’s sporadic off-season classical offerings, charged into challenges: Beethoven’s C minor sonata (No. 7), Bartok’s No. 2, Mozart’s F major (K. 377/374e), and Schubert’s B minor rondo.
Balance and energy, exploration and risk, these were the overall hallmarks of this performance. Nothing less is expected from the German violinist and his compatriot pianist.
It’s easy, if you’re away from them a while, to forget the dynamic drama of the Beethoven sonatas for violin and piano. Beethoven’s mighty impetus to experiment, and his constant return from surprise to beauty, stay at the forefront of all ten sonatas.
The C minor, a rare four-movement example, epitomizes this. At once worldly, generous and orchestral in scope—this may be its only shortcoming, that the music may need more instruments to realize fully its ideas—both players gave it a detailed prodding.
Tetzlaff stretches notions of beautiful sound, preferring occasional rough edges when the music demands. This is never questionable intonation, just aggression. It’s in the bowing, always using as much of its length as possible, insightful ideas about down- and upbow, using the extreme techniques—jeté, spiccato, détaché—with surprising results.
Are the best Bartok performances those that make sense of the music for the listener? Probably so. With some of it approaching a hundred years past, Bartok’s music still remains outside the comfort zone. Let your attention slip a second, and a world spins by unheard.
The integrity is there, urging intelligent players to stitch it all together. Extreme chromaticism, leaps in dynamics, faint recall of previous notions, damnable difficulties for the fiddler—these are all just Bartok’s ways of creating deep pleasure. This performance riveted attention.
The Mozart F major may come from a less aggressive sound-world, but seems no less complex. A theme with its set of frankly abject variations populates the middle movement. In Schubert’s B minor rondo, with its brilliant traversal of ideas, it was easy to fold biography into performance: Vogt, rapidly establishing himself as a conductor as well as continuing his top-shelf career as a pianist, seemed to assume the leader’s mantle easily here.
The next Rockport Music classical presentation in the Shalin Liu Performance Center will be Sunday, March 5 at 3 p.m. Cellist Taeguk Mun and pianist Noreen Cassidy-Polera will perform works by Brahms, Schumann, Chopin and Cassadó. For tickets and information visit www.rockportmusic.org or call 978-546-7391.
CADENCES: The performance was sold-out, according to lobby rumors, but the weather kept many concert-goers away. The view from this hall is always interesting; the swirling snow made it magical this afternoon. Vogt joins a growing list of performers using a tablet for his music; got to be easier to travel with, if nothing else. Despite shortening the intermission, as a way of getting people back home before even worse weather started up, Tetzlaff and Vogt still gave an encore: the second movement (Ballada) from Janacek’s only surviving sonata. Life of an artist: Tetzlaff and Vogt play the same recital tonight (Monday) in Toronto, Wednesday in New York, Thursday in Houston, Friday at Stanford, and Saturday in Rohnert Park (Sonoma).