Christian Tetzlaff & Lars Vogt — Images via &

Christian Tetzlaff & Lars Vogt

The Schubert Club
Mozart, Bartók, Kurtág, and Beethoven

Tuesday’s Schubert Club recital by violinist Christian Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt combined revelatory performances of music by Béla Bartók and György Kurtág with lean, modernist interpretations of more familiar works by Mozart and Beethoven. The result was a concert that demanded and usually rewarded the audience’s attention.

Unlike most of his international virtuoso peers, Tetzlaff performs on a violin that was manufactured within the past few decades as opposed to one that is centuries old. His choice of instrument is undoubtedly part of the story behind the characteristics of his playing that stood out during Tuesday’s recital, including a wide dynamic range and a vast array of subtle shadings but also a thinnish tone that sometimes left him struggling to be heard over the full, rich sound of Vogt’s Steinway.

During Mozart’s time, sonatas for violin and piano were primarily sonatas for piano with violin accompaniment. In sonatas like the one in B flat major, K. 454, that was featured in Tuesday’s recital, Mozart gives the violin a more prominent role, but the piano still takes the lead in introducing most of the themes and moving things forward. What stood out in Vogt and Tetzlaff’s performance was a very deliberate approach to articulation, especially in the first movement. There was still plenty of the familiar, gently flowing Mozart, but some of the music’s rougher edges also came to the fore.

Plenty of rough edges were to be found in Bartók’s Violin Sonata No. 1, written in 1921 at the height of the composer’s expressionist period. Tetzlaff and Vogt fully exposed the music’s tendency to lurch from violent to gentle to nervous to assertive, often with each instrument occupying a different mood simultaneously. The slow central movement, in which the violin and piano are each given some room to stand alone, was particularly riveting, while the appropriately twisted folk-influenced music of the last movement brought the piece to an exciting conclusion.

After the intermission, Tetzlaff performed five pieces from Kurtág’s Signs, Games, and Messages, an ongoing collection of short solo works for various instruments. Tetzlaff gave a compelling rendition of these varied, aphoristic pieces, ranging from the tightly organized Hommage à J.S.B. to the aggressive Zank-Chromatisch. It was unfortunate that this portion of the recital coincided with a particularly widespread round of coughing from the audience, but Kurtág’s unique music still shone through.

The last piece on the program was Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 7. Like many of the composer’s most distinctive works, this one stretches the boundaries of traditional musical forms, balancing the expected with the unexpected. Tetzlaff and Vogt moved through the piece at a determined pace, subtly shaping the music without big interpretive gestures, an approach that allowed Beethoven’s genius to speak for itself. The energetic finale of Antonín Dvořák’s Violin Sonatina, played as an encore, closed what proved to be a consistently engaging and stimulating recital.

Christian Tetzlaff photo by Giorgia Bertazzi
Lars Vogt photo by Felix Broede

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Eric Prindle

administers Bad Entertainment. He is also an attorney who leads a team of legal marketing copywriters at FindLaw. He is not Eric Prindle, the mixed martial arts fighter.