Tetzlaff Makes a Mid-Course Correction
The great German violinist, Christian Tetzlaff, has undergone a profound metamorphosis in recent years. He looks different today and he plays different.
Only a few years ago the 50-year old German had closely cropped hair, Lindberg wire-framed glasses and an uptight demeanor. He looked more like a stern Lutheran minister than a virtuoso violinist.
Today, Mr. Tetzlaff sports a 1960s-style hair bun, no glasses, a goatee and plays with a liberated free spirit. Unbelievable! Even his sometimes partner, the renowned German pianist, Lars Vogt, calls Tetzlaff’s music-making ‘learned but wild’.
I can think of no better advertisement for mid-life change than Mr. Tetzlaff. The violin virtuoso now plays with a new freedom and profundity that puts him at the very top of his profession. As I watched him play the other evening at Stanford University, I had the feeling I actually was watching a ‘three-armed’ violinist; there is the left arm, the right arm and the third arm-- also known as the violin—extending out from his neck over the left arm.
With Mr. Tetzlaff, the violin is like an organic extension of his body, not something outside it that he deploys to make music.
I hadn’t heard Tetzlaff play for several years when I dropped into Herbst Hall in San Francisco last year for a San Francisco Performances recital by the Tetzlaff Trio. Besides Mr. Tetzlaff, the Trio is composed of Lars Vogt, who is a great soloist in his own right, and Tanya Tetzlaff, a terrific cellist and the violinist’s sister.
The program that evening was sensational; there was a Brahms Piano Trio, a Schubert Piano Trio and the ‘Dunky’ Dvorak Piano Trio. The passion, precision and personality of these performances-- made all the more exhilarating by the fact that I had been caught unexpected-- got the best of me that evening. I was deeply moved.
Last week at STANFORD LIVE, Mr. Tetzlaff again was performing in the Bay Area with Lars Vogt-- but this time his sister was not with him. To be honest I missed her and the piano trios.
I found the duo violin-piano program, which the two German musicians are taking all over the US, less involving than the piano trios; an early Beethoven that sounded like Mozart, a real Mozart, a Bela Bartok and Schubert’s Rondo Brilliant.
Still, the Stanford performances were wonderful. Mr. Tetzlaff brought great virtuosity to the Rondo Brilliant especially the Coda. The Mozart Violin Sonata in F gave both players ample opportunities for demonstrating nuance, subtlety and lyrical expressivity—and they did not let Mozart down.
But of all the pieces on the program, I found the Bartok Violin Sonata No. 2 the most satisfying. The Sonata essentially is one 20-minute movement, where a slow generally lyrical opening leads to a quicker second part, propelled by dance tunes. I found especially exhilarating the difference in language employed by Bartok on the one hand, and Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert on the other.
The players did a terrific encore which I have yet to identify.
Mr. Tetzlaff is playing in a variety of different chamber music ensembles these days as well as continuing his solo career both with the world’s leading and less renowned symphony orchestras (This is one musician who doesn’t mind working in small as well as big venues).
The next time he comes to town one hopes he brings his sister as well as Mr. Vogt along with him.
And, please, Mr. Tetzlaff no more metamorphoses! We are happy the way you are.